Some while back I had the privilege and distinction of working for several years on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors organization, the last of which I had the honor to serve as president of the group. That involvement brought with it both a sense of history and a heightened awareness of just why the wire service’s vital news reporting had to remain impeccably accurate, above the political fray, and beyond reproach.
“There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe… the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here,” Mark Twain, the unflinching American author and humorist, once said.
But Twain, an occasional newspaper scribe himself during his illustrious career, also observed: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”
Associated Press reporter Gary D. Robertson managed to mangle the two Twain quotes into one unfortunate story while reporting Thursday on North Carolina’s return to normal government operations after the partial federal government shutdown ended. Robertson repeated this false assertion about state Department of Health and Human Services officials’ decision to continue taking new Work First applications but to temporarily suspend processing them because of lack of funding from the federal government for what formerly was known as welfare benefits:
“North Carolina appeared to be the only state that took such actions, rather than extending those services with state dollars and expecting reimbursement from the federal government.” Of course, we know that North Carolina certainly was not the only state that planned such actions.
Had Robertson read Tuesday’s Carolina Journal or done just a modest bit of independent Google searching, he would have known better, and could have avoided perpetuating that easily preventable falsehood from reaching the readers of The Associated Press’s news account.