Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hand wringing at the Associated Press: neutrality, politics, Pussy Riot, Ukraine, Cossacks, Sevastopol, Crimea, and the nomenclature of geography

O, the handwringing agony AP goes through,
explaining where Crimea is.

The Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, wherever their borders begin and end (the borders keep moving around), are not my favorite parts of the world.

My grandparents fled from that general vicinity, a genetically-challenged horde of remorseless barbarians and rapists called Cossacks chasing them down on horseback from behind, cracking what were probably the very same whips they used on Pussy Riot a century later.

So I have not the slightest yearning to visit the aulde sod. Not ever. Screw ‘em. Chernobyl was what they richly deserved.

As you might gather from what I’ve written so far, I am not a purely unbiased observer. In fact, anybody who can remain unbiased about that part of the world, in my opinion, has a brain made of equal parts of machine parts, fried microchips and sawdust. So far as I’m concerned, everybody there – pick whatever political flavor you prefer – is an odious turd until incontrovertibly proven otherwise.

So I watch with some cold-blooded amusement as the Associated Press gets its knickers in a twist deciding what and where the hell Crimea is, and how to locate it geographically while remaining unbiased. Or at least while maintaining the appearance of being unbiased.

Of course, all news reporting must have some kind of bias. Reporters and editors choose what to observe and report, and what to leave out, and how to arrange what they do report. Otherwise, an AP report of a public execution might begin, "Edmund 'The Thug' Cossackova was hanged in public today in front of a crowd of 1172 people, 42 percent of whom were wearing brown shoes and 61 percent were wearing black shoes while most of the remainder wore sneakers, except for a woman in purple pumps...."

But I’m wandering off-topic. Well, only sort of.

In a recent post on its own blog, those cog-brained Makers Of Important Decisions at the AP wrung their hands and declared:
Previously, we wrote “SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine (AP).” But Ukraine no longer controls Crimea, and AP datelines should reflect the facts on the ground.Therefore, effective this week, we are using the city name and “Crimea”: “SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (AP).”
 But wait a second, you totally unbiased, always accurate, AP neuterheads. Russia is in the process of annexing Crimea, if not the whole Ukraine, right? So shouldn’t your stories be datelined, “SEVASTOPOL Russia, (AP)?”

Well, err, ah, um, uh, n-n-n-nooo says the AP. Why?  And they explain that, too.
Why not “SEVASTOPOL, Russia” if Russia formalizes its annexation of the territory? The reason is that Crimea is geographically distinct from Russia; they have no land border. Saying just the city name and “Crimea” in the dateline, even in the event of full annexation, would be consistent with how we handle geographically separate parts of other countries. For instance, we just say “Sicily” and “Sardinia” in datelines — “PALERMO, Sicily (AP)” — even though they are part of Italy, and “Guadeloupe” in datelines
So, uh, let me see if I understand this then, AP. When you report from Alaska or Hawaii, which are geographically separate from the lower 48 of the USA, you don’t consider them part of the United States? 
Well, yeah, I get it that you dateline stories “Honolulu, Hawaii (AP)” and “Anchorage, Alaska, (AP) but that’s no different from datelining stories “Buffalo, New York (AP),” or “East Yipsilanti, Michigan (AP)” and both of those are geographically contiguous with the rest of the United States.
And what about Nantucket, Massachusetts? It’s an island, that is detached from the rest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. So shouldn't you be datelining stories from there, “Nantucket, Atlantic Ocean (AP)?” Or, “The Independent Island and Primarily Wealthy Peoples’ Republic of Nantucket (AP)?”
And what about the island of Manhattan, which is not only separated by water from the mainland United States, but also from Brooklyn and Queens and the rest of New York State? If you follow your own stupid rule, shouldn't the dateline from a story about Times Square be datelined, "Broadway and 42nd Street, Manhattan (AP)?"
Once you start going down this road to nonsense nomenclature, dear editors, you're going to get lost  in a knotted tangle of your own underwear. And don’t expect the rest of us to find and untie you.
We’re all too busy wondering what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and whether Putin is toying with World War III. You’ll have to count the angels dancing on the head of a pin all by yourselves, while we look at news reports written by people who concern themselves with the news, not with appearances and politically neutral nomenclature.


Buce said...

Um, isn't "Cossackova" femine? "Natasha the witch?"

Buce said...

And there's this:

IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

Patricia said...

This is one of your finest posts. My late husband was Ukrainian. The stories handed down about the Cossacks, I can't even describe it, it was so brutal. My husbands grandmother, cursed them to her dying day. The sad fact of the matter is that the U.S. has lost all credibility as far as invading other countries. I couldn't watch the video you posted.. It broke my heart. Thank you, for keeping the pressure on.