We Hear From Mr. Borenstein

Seth Borenstein, a science reporter for Knight-Ridder, also wrote a story in which he reported that:

Both President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, wished the former president well during campaign appearances. Some in Bush’s audience booed when he wished Clinton well, while those in Kerry’s cheered.

We wrote to Mr. Borenstein to ask his source for the claim that “some…booed.” We haven’t yet heard back from Mr. Borenstein, but reader Cynthia Robinson got an answer to her email, and passed it on to us:

On Saturday, a correction was sent out. Let me explain what happened so you can understand this was not some case of media bias or whatever. This was not a case of me being a liar, but a simple fallable human who makes a mistake. Unfortunately in this politically charged atmosphere, people would rather accuse someone of being a liar than understanding that we are all humans, make mistakes and as the Bible says, deserve forgiveness.
As a science correspondent, I was writing, from Washington, a story on the Clinton surgery and heart problem. I was sent an insert about Kerry mentioning the Clinton surgery and I tried to balance it with something taken from AP on Bush mentioning it. Since much of the e-mail I am getting seems generated by some web site that vilifies reporters[Ed.–that’s us, I guess], I recommend you read the entire story instead of someone’s edited version of it. When you do you will see this hardly a case of the media bashing Bush supporters. It is a case of a rushed reporter stupidly – and in error – using an AP story in half a sentence and not crediting AP.
I was in error not mentioning AP’s contribution and in using what was later retracted by AP. When Knight Ridder learned of AP’s retraction, we sent out a similar correction Saturday at 3: 16 pm.

So, as we suspected, Knight-Ridder simply relied on the Associated Press for the claim that Bush’s audience booed. Which shows, once again, the influence of the AP and the manner in which false information can spread rapidly through the mainstream news media.
What is interesting to me is that Borenstein softened the AP’s report considerably. He said that “some” booed, and made no reference to Bush failing to stop the booing. This suggests some recognition that the AP report was questionable or unfair on its face.
In any event, the moral of this part of the story is, don’t rely on the Associated Press.


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