by Dan Ward
An Associated Press story printed on Page A-2 of Tuesday’s Orlando Sentinel raised some eyebrows around here yesterday.
The story, by Matt Apuzzo, discussed how the Bush administration backed off crackdowns of troublesome mortgages years before the economy collapsed.
Certainly nothing wrong there in the reporting. It’s a fact that the administration considered such crackdowns but backed away. (It’s also a fact that members of both parties in Congress did much the same, but that’s a story for another day.)
But at one point, what began as a news article turned to commentary, with lines such as “The administration’s blind eye to the impending crisis is emblematic of a philosophy that trusted market forces and discounted the need for government intervention in the economy.”
Blind eye? Emblematic of a philosophy?
The Sentinel can actually be commended for editing out some even stronger language. In a longer version of the story printed by USA Today, the Seattle Times and others, the reporter follows his blind eye comment with, “Its belief ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s.”
This kind of language doesn’t belong on the news pages. It is editorial commentary, and should be labeled as such. When a news organization with the history and presence of the Associated Press begins to blend news with commentary, it calls into question the credibility of the entire organization, and of the media that publish its reports.
The fact that this story was picked up by outlets throughout the country, with few if any questioning the reporter’s comments, is all the more reason for those granting media interviews to take a hard look at whether their comments will be used to support a factual news story, or whether it will instead be used to support a reporter’s or news organization’s editorial position.
Like the old adage that says “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” any time a reporter starts telling you his or her opinion, it probably means that opinion will creep into the story.