by Mary Lyon, award-winning reporter and writer
Listening to Donald Trump’s latest blathering in Manchester, New Hampshire sent a brand new set of chills racing down my spine. His riffing off a recent Associated Press story about purported malfeasance between Hillary Clinton’s service as Secretary of State and the Clinton Foundation was flat-out scary. The AP’s ridiculous, misleading, and downright deceptive portrayal of imagined “pay-to-play” and “conflict of interest,” to which he often referred, unfortunately has legs, and The Donald is certainly a leg man.
The rabble was fired up by his rantings about this, chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Watching this sordid display was an increasingly troubling and in some ways downright horrifying experience.
I worked at the AP from the late 80s to the mid 90s. I covered Hollywood, 3,000 miles away from the Washington DC base. I was neck-deep in show-biz, so the goings-on in DC weren’t exactly center stage for me. But what exposure I had to the reporting from there showed it to be reliably straightforward, “just the facts, ma’am,” and in no way agenda-driven. Opinions were nowhere to be seen. Reporters’ bias was nonexistent.
Retiring from there has allowed me a larger view and gave me an opportunity to more freely reconnect with my own personal and political biases after years of fighting hard to muzzle them or otherwise remain impartial. Yet I was extremely proud to be part of the legendary Associated Press, from the moment I started there up til very recently.
But then, the insinuations about blurred lines between Hillary Clinton’s State Department service and the Clinton Foundation got front-row-center play. Maybe in a case like this, we should call the coverage “prey-to-play”.
Fortunately the reaction was swift.
This isn’t the AP I remember, and loved, and was thrilled to be part of. Where did that esteemed institution go wrong? It’s my suspicion that trouble may have started back in 2008 with the arrival of Ron Fournier in the Washington bureau.
For consideration, his Wikipedia profile:
In May 2008, Fournier was named the acting Washington bureau chief, replacing his “mentor” Sandy Johnson. Michael Calderone wrote that since taking over the position, Fournier has led a dramatic shift in the AP’s policy, moving it away from the neutral and objective tone it had become known for and toward a more opinionated style that would make judgments when conflicting opinions were presented in a story. (Emphasis mine.)
Fournier seems to have yanked the AP away from objectivity and pushed it toward partisanship. The whirlwind is being reaped. Fournier opened the lid of this Pandora’s Box and unleashed the demons. It’s sadly led to a colossal blemish on the face of the once-venerable AP, rendering it now compromised, its sterling reputation for credibility now suspect.
Frankly, my newest fear is that those who hear Trump’s incendiary ramblings, like those highlighting the AP’s craven mischaracterizations of some sinister “connection” between the Hillary Clinton State Department and the Clinton Foundation, won’t just leave it there. His rantings will enflame the gullible, sadly ill-informed crowds to lusty chants of “Lock her up” can only lead to angrier division at best and nightmarish tragedy at worst. This now officially constitutes playing with fire, on Trump’s part, with the Associated Press handing him the matches and the kindling.
This profession I used to love and in which I took such pride is now dreadfully tarnished. No wonder the media is held in such low regard th.
I won three AP Mark Twain trophies for my work, locally, before I joined the AP itself. I was almost literally outta-my-mind proud of that. The trophies are small, less than a foot high, with a bust of Mark Twain on a wooden pedestal. There’s an inscription on a little metal plaque on the front – a Mark Twain quote:
“There are only two forces that can carry light to all corners of the globe–only two–the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here.”
Most recently, with the hatchet job done to Clinton’s dedicated service as Secretary of State and the widely-praised, unimpeachable work of the Clinton Foundation, we’ve now seen a reversal of this wonderful quote. Little light is being carried, only darkness.
And it breaks my heart.
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