AP misrepresents Markey health-care outreach as “small-bore”

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s basic journalism to seek the perspective of those you’re scrutinizing-and to check your facts.

But the Associated Press did neither of those things for a story last Friday titled, “Vulnerable Democrats are tiptoeing on health care.”

As a result, at least one Democrat, Rep. Betsy Markey of Colorado, was presented in the article as tiptoeing when in reality, she may not have been tiptoeing at all, depending on your interpretation of the facts.

You’ll see what I mean when I provide information (below) that was omitted from the article.

The AP piece reported that Markey, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), and Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) had not “made an in-person appearance before a large crowd on the topic [health care] since it was passed into law.”

“After the raucus, angry town halls of last summer, Markey steered clear of massive gatherings,” the AP reported.

The AP wrote of Markey, “During Congress’ two-week Easter break, she reserved any discussion of health care reform for conference calls, an op-ed piece, and an appearance at a small-town Rotary Club-all small bore outreach.”

But the AP never called Markey’s office to discuss the matter, according to Markey spokesman Ben Marter. If the AP had done so, here’s what it would have found out:

After the health care bill passed the House (March 21) and prior to the publication of AP’s article (April  , Markey held two “tele-town hall meetings,” with 8,500 participants each, Marter told me, adding that these conference calls were publicized in “newspapers and announced on radio stations all across the district.”  

So a total of 17,000 people participated in Markey’s conference calls, many more than the average of 200-300 participants at Markey’s live town hall meetings over summer, according to Marter.

In addition, he says, Markey met during her office hours with groups (up to 50 people each) in a setting that “allowed more people to see Betsey and ask a question.”  

These figures make AP’s characterization that Markey engaged in “small-bore” outreach look way off the mark.

Let’s just call it what it is, editorializing.

It’s up to us to decide whether to believe Markey’s office and size up her outreach and the reasons for using the conference calls and other outreach measures in the wake of last summer’s, as the AP put it, “raucus, angry” town hall meetings. (Some might have called them “unmanageable,” “disruptive,” or possibly “unproductive.”)

But the AP never put the essential facts on the table for us to evaluate.

I was hoping the AP would talk to me about this, because I’m a huge fan of the news service, and it seemed really strange that it wouldn’t have bothered to call Markey’s office to get her side of the story, especially because other Democrats in the article were apparently interviewed.

But Kristen Wyatt, the AP reporter who wrote the piece, could only apologize for not being allowed to talk to me.

6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. gertie97 says:

    If that fails, call the AP in New York.

    If that fails, then call the Denver Post editor and ask him why the AP won’t talk to you.

    • Jason Salzman says:

      journalists with the AP.

      Mostly, they follow company policy of referring all questions to the corporate communications department. (Sometimes they’ll ask their editors if they can be interviewed.)

      At least that was the company policy last time i asked.

      Yes, it’s hypocritical for an outfit that relies on interviewing others to itself reject being interviewed.

  2. jclarke says:

    Mr Salzman:

    Allow me to clarify a point in your posting.

    Our reporter, Kristen Wyatt, tried to contact Mr. Marter several times to discuss U.S. Rep. Markey’s plans for explaining the health care bill to constituents.

    Specifically, she called Mr. Marter twice in late March. The calls were not returned. Then she e-mailed him on March 25. When she got an out of office response to that e-mail, she contacted Anne Caprara in the congresswoman’s Washington office.

    Ms. Cabrara told Kristen that details of any health care town halls would not be released because of security concerns.

    Kristen approached the congresswoman at an unrelated March 27 appearance to talk about her vote. Markey’s comments were reflected in the story.

    Mr. Marter’s assertion that The Associated Press failed to reach out to him or the congresswoman for comment are wrong.

    Jim Clarke

    Chief of Bureau

    The Associated Press

    Denver, Colo.

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