Does the AP Monitor Powerline? MN DWI Story's Change Makes It Appear So
May 28 Note: See the Update below, which notes different timing, but no change to the fundamental premise of this post.
That there has been no love lost between the Associated Press and leading center-right blog Powerline for quite some time is not exactly a secret. The mutual distaste goes back at least as far as the 2004 presidential campaign, when Powerline caught AP reporter Scott Lindlaw telling others that his "mission" was to see that George Bush would not be reelected, and exposed the AP's Jennifer Loven's conflict of interest in reporting environmental stories while her husband was the Kerry campaign's environmental consultant.
So what happened when John Hinderaker at Powerline exposed yet another in a long line of stories about politicians' misdeeds that "somehow" didn't mention the offender's party is fascinating indeed.
The original story on the DWI arrest of State Senate President James Metzen made no mention of his party affiliation. Its fifth paragraph read as follows (link is to abbreviated story; the original referred to by Powerline and Drudge was later revised; this ABC story has the original fifth paragraph but a revised sixth that indicates party affiliation):
Metzen, 61, a seven-term senator from South St. Paul, told officers he had three or four drinks, (South St. Paul Police Chief Michael) Messerich said.
It is virtually impossible that Bakst did not know that party James Metzen is a member of Democratic Farm Labor, the Gopher's State's version of the Democrats, when he wrote his original story on May 22. After all, Metzen isn't just another state politician, he's the President of the Senate. I confirmed in a phone call to AP's St. Paul office that was forwarded to its Minneapolis office that Bakst indeed works out of the St. Paul office. Additionally, Bakst appears to cover Minnesota state politics regularly -- so regularly that Larry Schumacher, a reporter and blogger for the St. Cloud Times, refers to Bakst in a blog post as a "Fellow Capitol basement dweller" (at second paragraph of second post at link).
Powerline's post noting Metzen's lack of party identification ("How to Read the AP") went up at 11:23 a.m. Central Time on May 23.
There is an updated report stamped 1:12 p.m. Eastern Time that same day (i.e., less than an hour later; the same time stamp is on the report at other sites). At that report, Bakst changed the fifth paragraph to read:
Metzen, 61, a seven-term Democratic senator from South St. Paul, told officers he had three or four drinks, Messerich said.
Even if this isn't the first update where Metzen's party ID was noted, what took Bakst so long to indicate what he obviously knew? And if the 1:12 p.m. update really is the first appearance of Metzen's party ID, did Bakst and AP have to be goaded by their adversary into reporting what they should have told readers in the first place?
UPDATE, May 28: I was informed of two additional developments that adjust the timing of the Powerline post and the related AP report, but still leave the question open as to what caused Bakst/AP to add Metzen's party ID.
First, I was informed by Noel at NewsBusters that Bakst did update the Metzen story's sixth paragraph at 7:46 a.m. on May 23 ("Metzen, a Democrat, didn't immediately return a call.")
Separately, and without knowledge of what I just noted, Scott Johnson at Powerline commented on the NewsBusters post yesterday evening, and added the following previously not-known information:
FOOTNOTE: I should add that our post misstates the author and the time it was posted. I originally posted the item before I left for work on May 23. I think it was the last item posted before our site crashed later that morning. Our tech genius Joe Malchow rebuilt our site with the result that the posting information is now off, although the text is accurate. I add this note only because Blumer's post uses the inaccurate posting information and accordingly tends, I believe, to understate his point.
Actually, Scott's information restores the point to its original place, depending on exactly when his original post went up on May 23. If it went up a little bit before 6:46 a.m. Central Time (7:46 a.m. Eastern), it remains an open question, as was the case with the timing as I originally understood it, as to whether Bakst's/AP's party-ID update was spontaneous, or whether it occurred in response to Powerline's post.
Update (Ken Shepherd | May 29 | 14:35 EDT):
AP's Minnesota news editor sent the following note to NewsBusters two hours ago:
I'm writing to respond to accusations of bias in AP's handling last week of the arrest of Minnesota Senate President James Metzen.
The suggestion that AP intentionally omitted Metzen's party affiliation _ he is a Democrat _ is incorrect.
Metzen's party ID _ as DFL _ was included in the original story that moved on Minnesota state wires May 22, and in four updates of the story.
The first version that moved on national wires May 22 also included Metzen's party affiliation, listed as Democrat. A second version that moved at 2:26 a.m. on May 23 DID drop the affiliation. It appears that happened when an editor inserted comment from Metzen's attorney for the paragraph that had included Metzen's party ID.
When the missing party ID was brought to AP's attention, a new version was promptly transmitted to restore it.
Minnesota News Editor
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.