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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dear Associated Press: Please stop shilling for Tim Eyman - and get your facts straight

The Associated Press' Olympia bureau has done it again.

For reasons I can't fathom, the Associated Press has put out on the wire a short "news brief" (hard to call it a story, since it's so short) trumpeting the "news" that Tim Eyman spoke at a small gathering of conservatives in Olympia about his latest scheme to bankrupt Washington State.

Not only is this "news brief" a wasted effort, since there's really no news in it, but almost every paragraph of it is filled with factual or mechanical errors.

To be fair, the errors weren't originally made by the Associated Press, they were made by the reporter who wrote the article the "news brief" is derived from - Jeremy Pawloski of The Olympian, who actually wrote a longer story about a gathering of conservatives in our state's capital that contains errors.

This story was then clipped by the AP so it focused almost exclusively on Eyman, then slightly condensed, and finally redistributed for no good reason.

The Associated Press may not be the source of the errors but they are at fault for not doing any fact-checking of their own before they chose to put this out on the wire. Memo to the AP: Just because this ran in a newspaper doesn't mean it's one hundred percent accurate and doesn't need to be double checked for mistakes.

Let's start out with paragraph two of the AP brief.
Eyman is sponsor of Initiative 1033, which would reduce property taxes by limiting the growth of certain state, county and city revenue to annual inflation and population growth excluding voter-approved revenue increases.
This is misleading. Initiative 1033 does not actually reduce property taxes; it is intended to prevent them from increasing. That would choke government and drain our common wealth, leading to thousands of job losses as state and local government leaders find themselves with no other choice but to lay off public servants because they can't pay them.

Next paragraph:
Eyman said as of last Monday, supporters of the initiative had 270,055 signatures about 20,000 short of the 292,000 valid signatures required to put it on the ballot in November.
Wrong. The number of valid signatures required to reach the ballot is 241,153, not 292,000. 292,000 is the bare minimum that Tim Eyman would like to have to ensure he has a large enough cushion to offset the inevitable percentage of duplicate or invalid signatures on his petitions.

(Eyman claimed last week that he had 270,055 signatures now - which could be a made up number - and says he needs at least 22,000 more).

Next parargraph:
The deadline for collecting signatures is July 3.
Officially, that's correct, but in actuality, it's wrong. The date is actually July 2nd this year, because July 3rd is a holiday - Independence Day Observed. Tim Eyman himself has mentioned this to his supporters:
On every petition and in every email and letter and newspaper story, the signature gathering deadline was identified as Friday, July 3rd. That's what we were told by the Secretary of State when we first filed the initiative back in January.

However, the Secretary of State just sent out a letter that says that July 3rd is actually a government holiday and their offices will be closed on that Friday. That means the ACTUAL deadline is one day earlier, Thursday, July 2nd.
Next paragraph:
Eyman said other TEA Party rallies this year have been instrumental in collecting signatures for the petition. TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already.
First, this sentence is gramatically incorrect. "Collecting signatures for the petition"? "Petition", singular? Try initiative. That's the noun Pawloski no doubt meant to use. As for "TEA Party", who cares what that stands for? Again, this just isn't news.

Nothing newsworthy happened at this small gathering of conservatives, which was estimated to be in the "hundreds" (and there's no visual evidence documenting this figure that I've seen). It was clearly an identical sequel to the many events that were held on April 15th and promoted by the Republican Noise Machine.

A gaggle of different conservatives who variously dislike Barack Obama, dislike government, and dislike paying their membership dues in America (or maybe all three) got together to dress up in costume, hold signs, and chant slogans. Whatever - freedom of assembly's a great thing. But there's no news here.

Tim Eyman said a bunch of stuff he's been saying for six months and his admirers cheered and told him what a great guy he was.

I wasn't even there and I could have easily topped this "news brief" with an accounting of what Tim Eyman said; plus, I could have provided accurate background information and a couple paragraphs detailing the opposing view of I-1033, which is completely missing from this wire piece.

Shame on the Associated Press - which claims to be objective - for putting out a subjective, error-filled dispatch shilling for Tim Eyman.

And shame on the Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The Examiner for reproducing it on their websites.

To those editors that chose to run this: If I want to know what Tim Eyman is doing, I can head over to his website and read his own words. Neither I nor anyone else needs Eyman's messaging crudely compacted and summarized for us.

The original thing is way more entertaining anyway.

Newspaper-quality journalism, indeed. I expect better from the world's largest wire service. Maybe my standards are just too high in an era when traditional media seems to be declining in almost every respect.

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