Thursday, February 26, 2009

Associated Press reporter gets lost, can't find where he's reporting from

In an article datelined Danville, Calif., an Associated Press reporter today told the story of a couple who won a house in nearby Marin County, after the family breadwinner had lost his job.

And then the intrepid AP reporter revealed:

The house is in upscale Marin County, just north of San Francisco. The couple already own a home in Danville, a suburb south of San Francisco...
Small detail: Danville is a suburb east, not south of San Francisco. Check it out on the map.

Which raises some interesting questions such as:

• Did the reporter know where he or she was while reporting from Danville?

• Assuming the reporter is based at AP's San Francisco bureau, how did he or she get to Danville in the first place? Maybe while sleeping in the back of a helicopter?

• Is the AP fudging around here and actually reporting from San Francisco, doing its interviews via phone, and only pretending (tch tch) to be reporting directly from Danville?

My own theory is that the AP isn't lying about datelines. Its reporter somehow got to Danville, but now is hopelessly lost there and can't find his way home. Well, if he camps out on the streets, there's a terrific farmers' market there on Saturdays. Great produce!

This is an example of the sloppy reporting and editing you get when the news business, under pressure, pares down its staffing so severely that its "reporters" and the people who edit their copy don't have a clue where they're reporting from.

This time it's only a warm-your-heart feature story about a family that lost its source of income but won a$2 million house. Imagine what the AP is missing — or getting wrong — in Washington.

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