Thursday, May 10, 2007

AFP, Call your lawyers.

A good rule of thumb for MSM in general, and AFP in particular:-- Fact checkers are always cheaper than lawyers.

Some more advice:-- A simple 30 second Google Search can go a long way in preventing your organization from looking incompetent to your customers/audience.

For those of you in what we Bloggers like to refer to as the MSM (main stream media),which is of course a money making business where credibility should matter, would it not make sense for you to actually check stuff out before you send a story out on the wire around the world where it is picked up by and sourced by other news organizations, bloggers and anyone else who is interested? Basic fact checking; is that really too much to ask for?

It just might be if you take a look at a recent story, that I think most of you are already familiar with: the Mike Lake / Bigfoot story.

Consider the following:

On Feb 16, 2007 a petition was brought to the constituency office of MP Mike Lake by Ross Shuliak and Todd Standing of The petition asks for the government to provide protection for the creature known as Bigfoot, and was signed by over 300 people mainly from Western Canada.

Watch it on video here *Please note in the video where Mr. Shuliak acknowledges that, by Mike Lake accepting the petition, it does not constitute his support for the petition.

March 28th, 2007. Mike Lake tabled the petition in the House of Commons and at no point did Mike Lake speak about the petition in the HoC, nor has he ever indicated his own support for the petition, but rather he presented it to the Clerk of Petitions where it was deemed to be in order and was accepted.

April 5th 2007. Here is how the Edmonton Sun covered the story (Original link but now PPV) (Highlighting mine)

Max Maudie Edmonton Sun: "An Edmonton MP has presented the government with a petition to protect Bigfoot.

Edmonton-Mill Woods- Beaumont MP Mike Lake offered the petition up March 28 in the House of Commons on behalf of a constituent who’s convinced Bigfoot exists and needs legal protection.

“You don’t make judgment calls on petitions,” Lake told Sun Media yesterday. “We try to do it as a service to constituents.”
Asked whether or not he believed in Bigfoot, the Tory offered a firm “No,” followed by a chuckle.
“But if he did exist, I’m sure he would vote NDP,” Lake kidded.
Todd Standing, 33, is the Bigfoot seeker behind the petition, signed by about 500 people, he said.
He claims to have at least 12 seconds of video footage that proves Bigfoot exists. He’s worked it into a 30-minute documentary.
The movie is called Sylvanic, a derivative of a native word used in southern British Columbia to describe the “shadow guardians of the mountains,” said the moviemaker.
The fact the petition will now be considered by the government is a “huge victory,” said Standing.
“Now that we’re in the nation’s business, people are going to start taking me seriously. People ask me, ‘Why would you do it? It doesn’t make any sense.’
“Of course it makes sense, because I’ve really found the species. Anyone could go out and execute these animals, and I can’t allow that to transpire.”
He won’t say where in the Rocky Mountains he caught Bigfoot on camera.
“When you have a Bigfoot discovery, men with guns show up,” he said. “People lie and deceive and cheat because it’s worth millions when you (find Bigfoot and) become famous.”
The government hasn’t yet responded to the petition, but has 45 days from the time it was presented to do so."
The facts were clear and concise, and the story passed without much notice or fanfare from anyone; that changed however, when another story made it out on the wire, because in this story the facts had somehow changed.

May 2nd, 2007. A new AFP story appears: Picked up world wide by the other media outlets and bloggers alike. A Google search reveals over 12000 hits on key words from the story. (Highlighting mine, and shortened for brevity)

OTTAWA (AFP) - Bigfoot, the legendary hairy man-like beast said to roam the wildernesses of North America, is not shy, merely so rare it risks extinction and should be protected as an endangered species.
So says Canadian MP Mike Lake who has called for Bigfoot to be protected under Canada's species at risk act, alongside Whooping Cranes, Blue Whales, and Red Mulberry trees.
"The debate over their (Bigfoot's) existence is moot in the circumstance of their tenuous hold on merely existing," reads a petition presented by Lake to parliament in March and due to be discussed next week.
"Therefore, the petitioners request the House of Commons to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to affect immediate protection of Bigfoot," says the petition signed by almost 500 of Lake's constituents in Edmonton, Alberta.
A similar appeal has been made to the US Congress.
Down through history, there have been numerous, if unsubstantiated sightings of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch in North American folklore......

Another version or perhaps morphed evolution of the same story from a Canadian Newspaper, The Province *Not sourced directly to AFP, but too similar in wording for coincidence.

Protect Bigfoot as species at risk: MP

Published: Thursday, May 03, 2007

OTTAWA -- The sasquatch, the legendary hairy man-like beast said to roam the wilderness of B.C. and other parts of North America, should be protected as an endangered species, says MP Mike Lake.
He wants the sasquatch -- a.k.a. Bigfoot -- to be protected under Canada's Species at Risk Act.
A petition to the House of Commons, signed by almost 500 of Lake's constituents in Edmonton and due for debate next week, asks the government "to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to effect immediate protection of Bigfoot."
A similar appeal has been made to the U.S. Congress.
Bigfoot researcher Todd Standing, who was behind the petition, claims to have proof of the sasquatch's existence and says he fears for its safety.
One might think that The Province might know that petitions do not get debated in the HOC in Canada, but then again I am a media optimist and still hold out some hope.

May 5th, 2007. Another slightly morphed version? appears and can be seen here. This version differs in that it comes from The Press Association and it now refers to the petition as "His petition", but it also continues to get some basic facts wrong.

To put it nicely, the above stories do not reflect the facts as they occurred, and even a simple fact such as where those 500 people who signed the petition live was not even checked out. Just about any Blogger would do a better job than this, and even a new Blogger would never be so stupid as to attribute words and views to Mike Lake that are simply not true and which could be easily verified in minutes. There is a term for this, but I cannot think of it at this time; perhaps the legal department at AFP might be able to help me out with my little memory lapse, but I digress.

A simple Google search or even a phone call could have prevented it all, but once the story managed to hit the wires, more fuel was to be be added to the fire as numerous bloggers of all political stripes and from all around the globe have commented on Mike Lake based on these news stories. To be honest, I can not blame them at all if the source of news they were using was itself corrupt; after all, a trusted source for news had come up with the story so why would anyone suspect that AFP did not check the facts? They are the pros after all.
A tip of the hat to Calgary Grit, Cowboys for Social responsibility, and Scott Tribe, Liberal Bloggers who all love to nail it to the Conservatives on a regular basis, but upon learning the facts of this story have since changed their stance on the entire affair. It is not often that Conservatives and Liberals agree that a news story is bogus, but in this case the truth is clear.

So there you have it. A very poorly researched news story is released, it gets picked up by MSM and bloggers worldwide, is read by countless numbers of people who now believe it to be the truth, and all the while doing yet untold damage to the credibility of Mike Lake.

What can be done? I do not know, but if AFP were to issue a correction on this ASAP, and perhaps think about employing more fact checkers, it would be a good start.

And lastly for your entertainment may I present yet one more 'version' of the story.
This morph sums it up nicely as it now includes the little gem that Mike Lake is a member of the RCMP.
I mean if the original story is not factual anyway, why not just add a little homegrown make believe into it before posting it to the web. Note how in this version Mike Lake has some new words attributed to him, not found in any of the other versions of this story. "According to Mr. Lake, the creature that is also known as the Sasquatch is real, and is endangered."

From the RCMP version:
A member of the Canadian Mounted Police by the name of Mike Lake has officially notified the Canadian Parliament that he believes that Bigfoot should be added to the Nation's, Species at Risk Act. This is similar to the Endangered Species List in the United States.

According to Mr. Lake, the creature that is also known as the Sasquatch is real, and is endangered. The reason, he says that there have not been more sightings in North America of Bigfoot is because the creature is endangered, not necessarily shy like many believe.

Garbage in, garbage out I guess.



Swift said...

If people started sueing the MSM when they distort or outright falsify a story, you would see a big change.

Ardvark said...

There appears to be little or no consequences for media unless the damn lawyers get involved to force the issue.

This is not a simple misquote or even the usual bias MSM story, this story is flat out wrong but who is the one that is going to suffer because of it?