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updated: 10/27/2011 4:15 PM

Talk with the Editor: The unfair assault on AP

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Here's a little experiment you might try.

Call up the Fox News website and take a look at its headlines.

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Then call up the MSNBC website and take a look at its headlines.

Then come back and tell us what you saw.

If it's like most days, most of the headlines will not only be different spins, but different topics. Most of the headlines on one will be directed clearly toward conservative viewers. Most of the headlines on the other will be directed clearly toward liberal viewers.

Each news organization markets toward a specific point-of-view. And that may be the way of the future. It may just be what the fragmentation of news and information makes inevitable. You can say it's good; you can say it's bad; or you can say it just is or at least will be.

But one thing it also does is put objective news organizations in the proverbial middle. (Pun recognized, but not intended.)

One of those news organizations is The Associated Press.

AP has a rich tradition that extends back to 1846 when six New York City newspapers first got together to figure out how to share resources from abroad. The collective eventually grew to more than 1,500 U.S. newspapers and 5,000 radio and television news operations.

More than two dozen AP journalists have died for your right to know. In providing that journalism, AP has earned roughly four dozen Pulitzer Prizes, the most revered award in journalism.

It takes its mission seriously. It takes its devotion to high standards seriously. It believes in its self-defined role: "News bearing the AP logotype is expected to be accurate, balanced and informed. AP feels that unrestricted access to the source of news is essential if those standards are to be met by the AP and other news organizations. The AP seeks no special privilege beyond free access. It believes that the more journalistic voices the world hears, the better informed it will be."

How ironic that that growing multiplicity of journalistic voices should then bring about a virtual campaign to discredit AP's fairness.

I have criticisms of AP. I think it has a tendency to see everything coming out of Washington through a political prism, that it casts issues too often based on what they mean to the upcoming campaign rather than by what they mean in terms of problems and solutions.

And since it is operated by people and people are flawed, its reporting at times will be flawed like everyone's reporting at times will be flawed.

But one byproduct of a conservative media talking to conservatives and a liberal media talking to liberals is that over time, people start thinking their media should agree with their predispositions when in reality, their media sometimes ought to challenge their predispositions.

And that's a shame.

"Complaints are not uncommon, though a large number reflect specific chagrin at how one's favorite candidate or closely held political position has been referenced in AP news copy," says Paul Colford, director of media relations for AP. "The AP is independent and proud of it. Our pedigree as a not-for-profit cooperative owned by our member newspapers across the country distinguishes us from the TV networks, or from Reuters, for example, all owned and sustained by large corporations with myriad other interests besides newsgathering."

Listen to TV or listen to the radio, and AP often will come up as some pundit's whipping boy. It's a convenient target, but not always a deserving one.

Recently, AP came under fire for presumably likening the Occupy Wall Street protests to the street protests in the Vietnam War era. There was only one problem with that charge. As Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple pointed out, it wasn't true.

(Please consider friending me on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following me on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)

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