A few moments ago, NPI’s news crawler alerted me that the Associated Press has just dumped another half-baked – no, make that quarter-baked – “story” out on the wire, glorifying an announcement Tim Eyman supposedly made about attempting to qualify an initiative for the ballot this year.
I say supposedly because I haven’t seen any other news outlet reporting that Tim is launching a new initiative campaign, and Tim has not (yet?) sent out an email to his supporters or posted anything at unSoundPolitics.
But it wouldn’t surprise me if he told the Associated Press they could have an exclusive, knowing that they would obligingly write up a few one-sided paragraphs for him without bothering to complete an actual story .
Here is what they published:
SEATTLE – Initiative guru Tim Eyman says he’s pushing a statewide campaign this year to make sure that the Legislature – and not the governor’s Transportation Commission – is responsible for setting highway tolls.
Last year, Eyman’s I-1053 passed, requiring that any new or increased fees require majority legislative approval. He says lawmakers violated that in the pending transportation budget by saying they would adopt whatever toll rates the commission deemed appropriate.
His new initiative – I-1125 – would require lawmakers to set tolls. It would reiterate that gas tax and toll revenue must be used on transportation spending, and it would bar tolls from one project from being used to pay for another. For example, if the state decides to put tolls on Interstate 90, that money couldn’t be used to pay for the new Highway 520 bridge over Lake Washington.
That’s all there is. This same blurb, which can’t be legitimately called a story, has already been published online by The Seattle Times, The Olympian, and a few television stations. It is essentially nothing more than a puff promotional piece for Eyman, except it’s devoid of Tim’s colorful language.
(At least in terms of entertainment value, Tim is a better writer than anybody the Associated Press employs).
The author of the blurb is predictably not identified. The byline simply says Seattle, which makes me think the three paragraphs the blurb contains were produced by somebody working out of the Seattle bureau a block south of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Building on Elliott Avenue.
What we’re wondering is whether the person wrote the above also happens to be responsible for this, or whether the Eyman worship is a team effort.
I wish that the equation, Associated Press = Tim Eyman’s P.R. agency were unfair. After all, a wire service that’s more than century old and advertises itself as “the essential global news network” should be able to produce journalism. If the A.P. is going to bite at Tim Eyman’s fishing line, they should do more than just paraphrase whatever email he sent them. Because that’s not journalism. That’s recycling.
Is it unreasonable to expect that a news organization which claims to be objective should strive for objectivity? I don’t think it is.
We don’t operate under the pretense that we’re objective because we like to be open and upfront with our readers. Our viewpoint and our policy directions are based on the values and principles we believe in. Those values are not a secret.
The Associated Press, on the other hand, advertises itself as a not-for-profit news cooperative, “delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats”. That’s a direct quote from their website.
There’s no way the blurb above could be considered unbiased;. Eyman’s perspective is the only viewpoint in it. There is no other viewpoint of any kind represented in those paragraphs, let alone a dissenting viewpoint. That blurb might be appropriate for P.R. Newswire, but certainly not the A.P. Newswire.
As for Eyman’s initiative, I-1125, it’s dead on arrival unless Eyman has found a wealthy benefactor to fund it. Maybe his buddy Kemper Freeman, Jr. agreed to give him half a million bucks. Or maybe Michael Dunmire has agreed to resume filling Eyman’s coffers with cash. We’ll know soon enough.
There are only around two months to go until this year’s deadline for submitting ballot measure petitions arrives (it’s always in early July).
If Eyman is intending to qualify I-1125 to the ballot, he’s going to need to get hired mercenaries out on the street immediately. Two months isn’t a lot of time to collect three hundred thousand signatures.
UPDATE: So, evidently, while I was writing this post, this blurb was in the process of being turned into more of an actual story by the Seattle bureau’s Gene Johnson. Johnson is who the Albany Times-Union (of Albany, New York) credits as the author of the longer piece that begins with the blurb.
Senator Mary Margaret Haugen is consulted for the dissenting viewpoint.
The introductory paragraph has also been changed to read “frequent initiative sponsor” instead of the more one-sided “guru”.
The changes are welcome, but the existence of this longer piece doesn’t justify the A.P.’s publication of a half-baked, unfinished version. Most of the news outlets that have picked this up still do not have the full version.