Elite Media defend PR shilling for one another
By Nate Thayer
December 31, 2014
Yesterday, I was forwarded an email sent to my editor from the Washington Examiner newspaper requesting comment on a story we wrote on December 24 called “The Associated Press in North Korea: A Potemkin News Bureau?” The problem was the Examiner had published the story 8 hours earlier than the email they sent requesting comment on.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “Becket Adams” <[email protected]>
Date: 30 Dec 2014 19:24
Subject: Media request from the Washington Examiner
To: <[email protected]>
I’m a media reporter for the Washington Examiner and I’m hoping you can answer a few questions for me today.
The AP has pushed back on your all’s claim that North Korea censors the news agency’s Pyongyang bureau, noting that the draft agreement cited in your article is, in fact, just an early draft.
They also suggested that Mr. Thayer’s previous history with the AP played a significant role in his reporting.
Lastly, the AP when it responded to questions from the Washington Examiner said outright that it stands by all earlier responses to NK News’ report.
Will NK News be producing any further proof to bolster the claims made in the report? Does Mr. Thayer plan to produce further evidence of collaboration between the AP and North Korea? Or have we reached a stalemate where both sides have said their piece and neither will budge?
Any answers you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Mr. O’Carroll contacted me. “Wanna take this or shall I?” he wrote to me.
Me to Editor: “I can, if you want. Notice it was sent 8 hours after they released the story. The story was sent at 0500 EST. I don’t believe for a minute he tried to contact anyone. My phone and emails are publicly available, as are yours– FB, tweets, blogs, Google all have my personal contacts and yours. The Examiner story is one of many that have simply taken the AP press release and ran with it not even bothering to pretend to seek comment. We need to put out a strong , simple statement pointing out AP has not disputed a single fact from our article, and AP is being both aggressive and dishonest avoiding the merits of the article. The Examiner is far from the only one who has not even bothered to contact NK News on this story before running the AP hit press release”
AP absolutely disputes report North Korea controls its Pyongyang bureau
ASSOCIATED PRESS T. BECKET ADAMS | DECEMBER 30, 2014 | 5:00 AM
A Delaware-based watchdog group and the Associated Press continued their war of words this week as the global news agency fiercely denied reports its Pyongyang bureau submits to censorship… Read More…
So I called the Washington Examiner Editor in Chief Hugo Gurdon. We chatted. He promised to look into it.
From Me to Hugo Gurdon:
Here is the forwarded email from your guy. The time stamp (of 1133 hours AM) is London time where NK News (NKNews.org) editor in chief is based. You will note that the Examiner story went out at 0500 hours EST.
Please do let me know how you address this. If you look at the Twitter beast, you will see the Examiner story has taken off in retweets etc.
All we are asking for is a fair shake. The story stands on its merits. But as you well know, the powerful media poo bahs, including the AP (which by the way, I have great respect for), do not take lightly to these kind of stories, regardless of its merit as an issue clearly within the bounds of public interest.
I hope you are well, my friend. Let’s make a plan to get together soonest.
443 205 9162
From Hugo Gurdon to me yesterday:
I have read the story and spoken with the reporter Becket Adams. The first thing I’d say is that I don’t think the story is damaging to you or to NK News. It reports what AP says in its release, but it also reports that AP failed to cover various important news stories out of Pyongyang such as Kim’s six-week disappearance and the Sony hacking, which if anything lends credibility to your piece rather than undermining it. It also notes that Colford declined to add substance to AP’s statement.
But you are right that it would have been desirable for our story to have included your response to AP’s statement from the outset. Becket made some efforts to get that yesterday while doing his reporting. He searched the NK News website for O’Caroll’s email and yours but could not find them, so he emailed questions to the “contact us” email address on the site. You will, I assume, see his email there if you want to check. He also sought comment by phone, twice calling a Delaware number given on the website, but it went through to voicemail. He should have left a voicemail but did not do so. Becket’s phone number is 571-283-3622 and he is happy to talk with you now if you want to take that opportunity. The reporting on this was not perfect but I hope you can see that it was also not improper or malicious. Either way, again, I’d say that you and NK News emerge without damage from our story.
I hope that we can be in touch again soon, perhaps in the New Year, and catch up.
Me to Hugo:
I have to strongly disagree. There is absolutely no one who can not get in touch with me or NK News by simply perusing the most obvious sources for contact. My personal cell phone and email address are available by any google search; are on my FB page; and on my personal blog. Your reporter never made an attempt to contact me. And, frankly, I do not believe he attempted to contact NKNews before publishing the story. I sent you the email he sent–it was 7 hours after the Examiner published the story.
If he did make an attempt, I presume those records are available to you. I would like to see them and I would assume you would ask to see them yourself for your own purposes.
Secondly, he referred to NK News as a “Delaware-based watchdog group”– a description directly lifted from the AP and, if he had done even a modicum of due diligence, would have realized that NKNews is perhaps the most respected independent news source for North Korean issues of any reporting site. It is not an advocacy site nor do I write advocacy journalism. No one has ever referred to NK News as a watchdog group other than the AP PR department.
His reference to the “news agency fiercely denied reports its Pyongyang bureau submits to censorship” is based on what? Their own press release does not cite a single fact from the article they address as false, little less deny.
Your writer then goes on to write that I am outright lying that I interviewed those that I did, quoting AP saying “It is unlikely the writer contacted all the sources he claims, one of whom has publicly denied speaking to him at all.” No one who I interviewed denied saying I interviewed them, yet the Examiner repeats this most egregious of assaults on my integrity without even a cursory attempt to check if it is true. It is not. The Examiner did not even name the so-called person who I am said to have interviewed but contends I lied that I did.
Your writer again repeats the very serious allegation that “AP is being accused of falsehoods by a disgruntled former business collaborator who has leaped to bogus conclusions” without bothering to check whether a single phrase of that slanderous sentence is true. None of it is.
A “former business collaborator”? I was the AP bureau chief in Cambodia, and their correspondent prior to that. I am not and have never been disgruntled with AP. Not a single AP person would even suggest that is true. And what “bogus conclusions” is the Examiner referring to?
If a news outlet is going to make such extraordinarily serious allegations, is it not reasonable for them to fact check whether they have even a scintilla of truth? Or at least contact the person they are repeating claims is a liar and a fraud with a personal agenda?
Not a single fact of the NKNews article which I authored was disputed by either the Examiner or the AP.
The Examiner then goes on to say that the document of which we published in full (along with 14 separate interviews with AP staffers who corroborated it) is “much different from the document signed. Did your reporter ask how it is different? AP does not claim any specific portion of the document is different, because it is not.
The Examiner then repeats that “Thayer has a personal vendetta against the global news organization dating back to the late 1990s” without even stating what this non-existent vendetta is or even quoting AP to elaborate on the fictitious vendetta. That is because there is no vendetta. Did your reporter ask me or anyone else whether such as vendetta exists, and if it did, what it was?
The Examiner alleges that I “dismissed the value of AP’s North Korea bureau shortly before he sought from AP detailed proprietary information about the bureau for further articles that were published on Dec. 24.” Did your reporter bother to check whether any such dismissal ever occurred or when I submitted 30 some written questions to the AP top management for this story in November? Or what the so-called “proprietary” information we requested was?
The Examiner then reprinted, verbatim, the AP PR assault, without even attempting to corroborate or get an opinion of whether there is any factual basis of these libelous claims, that “No serious news organization would hand over the kind of business agreements, salary information and other payment documentation that Mr. Thayer sought.”
In fact, we did not ever inquire of the salary rates of the AP North Korean hand-picked AP correspondents. We inquired whether the AP paid the North Korean government directly their salaries. And of course we asked all the questions one should when reporting a story–and we asked them in writing to numerous AP executives more than a month prior to publishing. Did your reporter ask for a copy of those questions to see whether they were reasonable? No.
The examiner then wrote that the article is “full of errors, inaccuracies and baseless innuendo.”
But the AP does not name a single error or inaccuracy or innuendo and the Examiner made no inquiry of what those fictitious mistakes might be. That is because there are none. This was a meticulously sourced straight news story. If AP could have cited an error, they, of course, would have. They didn’t, because there are none. Yet the Examiner reprinted these falsehoods verbatim and without even seeking a source to corroborate them.
The the Examiner reprints in full the allegation that the document of the draft agreement between AP and North Korea “is remote from the final document”, but cites not a single fact that would show what the AP claims is different from this document (dated days before they signed the agreement) and the signed agreement. That is because there is none. If the AP could point to difference, again, they would have, of course.
Then the Examiner quotes AP as saying “This ‘story’ had been spiked by the website” without any evidence to suggest that is true. It isn’t. The story was never spiked by NK News. That is an outright lie, which the Examiner never bothered to even inquire had any basis in truth.
Again, your reporter fucked up. He should admit he did. He should correct and acknowledge his error. As should the Examiner. This is not a gray area. It is simply lazy journalism on the part of your reporter unworthy of the Examiner.
I do hope you will revisit this, instead of giving these kind of reporting standards sanction to repeat themselves.
Please do contact me if you have any thoughts whatsoever. And despite this unpleasantness, which the Examiner has tangibly contributed to soiling my reputation as a journalist of integrity, I hope it can be rectified. I get defending your reporter. I do not get defending this kind of faux reporting.
Me to Hugo:
On Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 10:10 PM, Nate Thayer <[email protected]> wrote:
Regarding your reporter’s “attempt to seek comment from NK News” here is his email. It was sent 33 minutes after the Washington Examiner story was already published. In other words he made no attempt to do anything but publish a straight reprinting of the PR release of an interested party who made extremely damning and uncorroborated slanderous accusations against a solidly sourced news article without even attempting to seek so much as a comment prior to publishing from the primary subject of his reportage.
The Examiner story was published at 0500 hours. His so-called attempt for comment from the party he attacked and republished an entirely unsubstantiated hit piece was not even sent out until 0533 hours.
Is there any other way to read it?
See below time stamps for Examiner published story and time stamp for his so-called email seeking comment
Please get back to me as this is very, very serious.
MEDIA DESK: NATIONAL SECURITY
AP absolutely disputes report North Korea controls its Pyongyang bureau
BY T. BECKET ADAMS | DECEMBER 30, 2014 | 5:00 AM
Hugo Gurdon to me this morning at 11:22:
I have asked my colleague Mark Tapscott, who was the editor on the story, to compile answers to each of the points you make, and he will get back to you this afternoon.
Me to Hugo at 11:40 this morning:
Thanks for the response. I look forward to Mark’s message and hope that the Examiner will make the obvious, right decision to correct the reporter’s clear violation of minimum acceptable journalistic standards and issue a clarification acknowledging the mistake to try to mitigate the damage the story has already done. We all know once these things are done in the digital era, they cannot be undone, but one can admit when one has made a mistake and take responsibility for it.
I hope you all will do your part to resolve your reporters egregious hit piece (whether through laziness or intentionally), which the Examiner allowed to be published prior to even the veneer of seeking a comment from th primary subject of the story which was attacked by a clear interested party.
Of course, obviously, I take this seriously, and equally continue to respect the Examiner. This shit happens in newsrooms.
I’m a media reporter for the Washington Examiner and I’m hoping you can answer a few questions for me today.
The AP has pushed back on your all\’s story about AP bureau in Pyongyang being controlled by North Korea\’s government. In their response to your article, they allege that you all had originally agreed to spike the story, but ended up publishing it anyway.
Is there any truth to this claim? Also, does NK News stand fully behind the report? Are there any questions regarding the veracity of the author\’s claims?
Is this a stalemate where neither you nor the AP are going to budge? Can we expect further proof of collaboration between the AP and Pyongyang.
My filing deadline is immediate. Any answers you can give in response to my questions would be greatly appreciated.
I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks!
Then I received this rather extraordinary formal defense of the Examiners apparent reporting standards:
From Mark Tapscott, Executive Editor of the Washington Examiner:
Mark Tapscott <[email protected]>
to me, Hugo
Hugo Gurdon forwarded to me your comments regarding the Becket Adams story and asked that I respond to them. The responses that follow are in the order in which your comments appeared in your email to Hugo.
1. “Your reporter never made an attempt to contact me.” I have reviewed the call logs and confirmed that Becket called NK News contact number twice on 12/29. He has acknowledged that he did not leave telephone messages on either occasion but should have done so.
On the issue of the 5:33 am email, it is my understanding from our IT department that the timestamp would represent local time for the server handling your contact process. Thus, the timestamp may represent a different timezone from EST and possibly also a different date. Without additional information from your server, I would not speculate further on its location or timezone. In that regard, Becket insists that he composed the email in question between 2 and 3 pm on the 29th and his search log shows that he indeed used the NK News contact link he found on Google at 2:37 pm on the 29th.
2. “… he referred to NK News as a ‘Delaware-based watchdog group.” While I have no reason to doubt your claim that AP alone has used the term “watchdog group,” it is not a derogatory phrase and in many quarters is considered a compliment. My duties here at the Examiner include editing both the Media Desk and Watchdog Team, and I certainly view the term in a positive manner. In any case, Becket saw the term used in a Mediaite story on the controversy and judged it to be accurate based on the NK News About description of itself as a “specialist site” covering North Korea. Considering the watchdog role of the media in general and the paucity of credible coverage of North Korea, it seems to me justified to refer to NK News with that term and to intend it to be positively descriptive.
3. “His reference to” … “is based on what?” Becket’s choice of words in this instance reflected his conversation with AP.
4. “Your writer then goes on to write that I am outright lying …” The AP made the assertion regarding your interviews, not our reporter who only quoted AP.
5. “Your writer again repeats the very serious allegation …” Again, the AP made the assertion with which you take issue, not Becket.
6. “A ‘former business collaborator?’ …” Becket quoted the AP’s description, he didn’t thereby endorse it.
7. “And what ‘bogus conclusions’ …” That was AP’s description, Becket merely quoted it.
8. “If a news outlet is going to make such extraordinarily …” Assuming your reference here to a “news outlet” is to the Examiner, the Examiner made no allegations, it reported the allegations by AP.
9. “… is it not reasonable for them to fact-check …” The purpose of Becket’s post was to provide readers with information about a significant dispute among news organizations and their respective claims in that dispute, not to serve as an arbiter of the accuracy of those claims.
10. “AP does not claim the document is different …” AP described the final document as “remote” from the draft you obtained. You should note that the Examiner attached a copy of the draft without comment on its veracity.
11. “The Examiner then repeats …without even stating …” Becket characterized what he was told by AP and then quoted it verbatim. Again, quoting AP does not constitute an endorsement by the Examiner of what the AP said.
12. “The Examiner alleges that I …” The Examiner reported what AP claimed.
13. “The Examiner then reprinted verbatim, the AP PR assault …” At least at this point, we agree that Becket quoted AP accurately.
In this regard, I note your reference to “the salary rates of the AP North Korean hand-picked AP correspondents.” The Examiner would be interested in discussing your evidence documenting which specific official(s) in the North Korean government handpicked AP correspondents and who in AP approved the selections.
14. “The Examiner then wrote …” Again, the Examiner reported, it did not merely write.
15. “Yet the Examiner reprinted these falsehoods without even seeking a source to corroborate them.” The Examiner reported what AP said and, as described in #1 above, made a good-faith effort to contact NK News.
16. “Then the Examiner reprints in full …” See #10 above.
17. “The story was never spiked by NK News.” See #9 above.
In closing, I note that the Examiner post about the NK News/AP disagreement is similar in tone and content to those published by Politico and Mediaite.
The Washington Examiner
1015 15th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
“Corruption in government is a bipartisan problem. Exposing it is a trans-partisan obligation.”
And I responded:
From me to Hugo and Mark:
Nate Thayer <[email protected]>
to Mark, Hugo
What a transparent load of unadulterated rubbish. Obviously you aren’t a journalist.
“The purpose of Becket’s post (Is that what the Examiner calls a news story? How quaint) was to provide readers with information (You don’t even bother to address or dispute that your “information” in your “news story” was a straight out rewrite of a PR release of an interested party with no attempt to corroborate the facts as true ) about a significant dispute among news organizations (There is no dispute “between news organizations”. We wrote a solid impeccably sourced, news story of which the facts remain undisputed or questioned or denied. It stands on its merits, which are not disputed even by AP. The Examiner simply regurgitated the PR release and the tete a tete your ‘reporter’ had with the AP spokesman, which never once addressed the content of the story) and their respective claims in that dispute, not to serve as an arbiter of the accuracy (“not to serve as an arbiter of the accuracy…”!!??!! What exactly do you serve as if not “accurately” portraying the facts of the topics you write on?) of those claims.
Regarding your repeated attempt to justify ignoring doing the right thing and correcting your amateur reporting by defending this bullshit reporting saying “the Examiner made no allegations, it reported the allegations by AP” and “The AP made the assertion regarding your interviews, not our reporter who only quoted AP” and “Again, the AP made the assertion with which you take issue, not Becket” and “Becket quoted the AP’s description, he didn’t thereby endorse it” and “That was AP’s description, Becket merely quoted it” and “Becket characterized what he was told by AP and then quoted it verbatim. Again, quoting AP does not constitute an endorsement by the Examiner of what the AP said” and “The Examiner reported what AP claimed” and “Again, the Examiner reported, it did not merely write” and “The Examiner reported what AP said” and then, again, you conclude “At least at this point, we agree that Becket quoted AP accurately.”
Actually, in truth, we don’t agree on anything, certainly not the basic moral precepts that drive credible news reporting.
For your edification, in case you missed it in your however long career in so-called journalism, let me remind you of not only the moral, but legal foundation of your offensive argument, which, frankly, I find hard to believe even you can believe:
“When one person repeats another’s defamatory statement, he may be held liable for republishing the same libel or slander.” From moethelydo v. Fire Ins. Exchange (1986) 42 Cal.3d 208, 217.
“A false statement is not less libelous because it is the repetition of rumor or gossip or of statements or allegations that others have made concerning the matter. As said in Waite v. San Fernando Pub. Co., 178 Cal. 303 [Cit. Iamb.], a defamatory article which would be libelous per se, if its matter was directly stated, does not lose its quality in this regard because it is couched in the form of an interview with another person, or because it seeks to avoid its otherwise obvious character as a libel per se by the statement that it is reported or asserted or believed to be true.” From Ray v. Citizen-News Co. (1936) 14 Cal.App.2d 6, 8-9
“. . . the general rule that every repetition of the defamation is a separate publication and hence a new and separate cause of action though the repeater states the source (Prosser, Torts (2d ed.)” From Di Giorgio Corp. v. Valley Labor Citizen (1968) 260 Cal.App.2d 268, page 273
“A false statement is not less libelous because it is the repetition of rumor or gossip or of statements or allegations that others have made concerning the matter.” From Arditto v. Putnam (1963) 214 Cal.App.2d 633, 639 fn.2
With exactly the respect due this wimpy evasion of a response refusing to take responsibility (and going even further and endorsing) shoddy amateur journalism that does not meet the minimum standards of any respectable media outlet I have ever heard of–again what a load of transparent rubbish.
Again, the Examiner republished a straight out PR handout from an interested aggrieved party on a solid news story who does not once question the merits of the story but, rather, contacted the Examiner who agreed to republish a PR generated hit piece and never even bothered to get a comment from the parties which are the sole subject matter of your story.
Instead, you double down and offer this garbage saying you only quoted what someone else said and it is not your job to report the truth accurately in a news story?
Regarding your comment in “In closing, I note that the Examiner post about the NK News/AP disagreement is similar in tone and content to those published by Politico and Mediaite.”
Yeah. Exactly, those two publications didn’t bother to attempt to contact me or North Korea News either. Just like you guys. Am I suppose to think because other media outfits performed egregiously, that means to you it is less of a problem that you fucked up?
You still haven’t said anything but your reporting standards as exhibited in this story are just fine by you and the Examiner, choosing instead to waste your and my time in a comical exercise in ass covering.
I am sure you share my embarrassment for you.
So far, no response from the poohbahs of quality journalism at the Washington Examiner.