Wednesday, March 12, 2003

AP exam
I am not a very adventurous surfer and mainly just go for the news of the day. There the alarming point is that it is the same in all US sites and the same in all Italian sites but different in the US and in Italy

Basically in the US all news on the web comes pretty much straight from the associated press (AP) and in Italy it comes from ANSA (don’t know the words it is the main Italian language wire service). Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like there is a clear ideological bias here. Maybe AP and ANSA have the same ideological slant maybe they give the news unslanted (I think that “unslanted news” is a mystical concept something which can’t fit into this universe but I’m trying to be open minded). I think AP is marginally more reliable. For example in Italy there was the hot scoop that Putin had promised Bush not to veto the ultimatum resolution the day before Russia formally announced their intention to veto. However, this impression might just reflect my very strong prejudice. AP certainly is very scrupulous about clearly posting corrections. The weird thing is that as I have obsessively searched different sites trying to get different news and I realise that I am reading the same thing over and over again. Not just the same substantive content but often the same emphasis, order of presentation and phrasing. This is not a scandal, often the pages cite the AP either as source of the page (then usually something I have read word for word twice already) or as the main source of information in the page (means they did mostly cut and paste with a little rewrite).

OK OK the Washington Post does seem to have could off the record sources (talk about shocking news) so sometimes I can tell AP got it from them and wild rumours and stuff are at www.drudge.com (wait what is he up to now that he doesn’t have Clinton to kick around I haven’t been their in months).

Actually AP’s own reporters are pretty good (or lucky). AP had good reporting from Kabul during the war. The AP affiliated Taliban communication ministry kept the Taliban from ejecting the AP reporter. AP picks up Taliban communiqu├ęs which are certainly of interest and it appears that formally the relationship was legally like that between the AP and legitimate news sources (that’s diplomacy).

Still this is weird. I mean I trust the AP I really do. But why isn’t it’s power a source of concern. Most of the content I am describing is written up by AP. It is not the stories filed by member newspapers (they are too obscure to be on the AP ticker page I favour which is at www.newsday.com (they don’t even pretend to rewrite the AP stuff for the web page so you can get straight to the “raw” news. So if AP decided to change it’s slant (or adopt one if it is currently un-slanted) this might have a big effect.

I think the web has made this copy and paste business more extreme (as of course have word processors). It used to be Newspapers had trouble being critical readers of and listeners to their sources because they had to meet a deadline of x PM: Now that they can update continuously there is a deadline every instant “ Get it up on the web now this instant so we aren’t the very last to report it – we can change it later” . Then they rarely change it (same exact words posted for hours as this desperate reader checks again and again for something new anything new). Thus total falsehoods might slip in and stay. Now it could be worse. I mean no one is going to take seriously the totally fabricated “quotation” above which demonstrates only my limited ability to handle the subjunctive in any known human language.

But maybe I’m just going to the wrong sites -- CNN, CBS news,WashingtonPost ,New York Times, AP ticker an Newsday, ANSA itself, La Repubblica Corriere della Sera a pathetic list really. Now if you actually got here, you must be a serious surfer. Please help me out. Where can I get new news in English or Italian. Please mail to rjw88@hotmail.com

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