The Associated Press: Tim Eyman’s P.R. agency

Rethinking and Reframing

Researchers looking for evidence that American traditional media is effectively brain-dead need look no further than the Seattle and Olympia bureaus of The Associated Press, which inexplicably continue to put garbage like the following out on the wire for member newspapers and broadcast outlets to use:

SEATTLE — Initiative activist Tim Eyman won a $20,000 award from the Sam Adams Alliance. The group calls him a modern day Sam Adams for his commitment to cutting the size of government in Washington state.

The Seattle Times reports the “Sammies” awards were handed out Friday in Chicago.

Eyman sponsored I-1053, which reinstated the requirement of a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes.

Information from: The Seattle Times

That’s it. The above isn’t an excerpt – that’s literally all there is.

As best we can tell, the source for this P.R. piece is a blog post on Politics Northwest by Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner. The post describes a national right wing outfit’s decision to take pity on Tim Eyman and dump $20,000 into his coffers, as well as present him with a commendation for doing such a fine job of wrecking government in Washington State so it can’t work like it’s supposed to.

The post isn’t very long. It’s what many folks – including the team at NPI – would consider to be standard fare for the Seattle Times’ Politics Northwest blog. (Like many other blogs, Politics Northwest routinely covers offbeat political developments that aren’t necessarily important or newsworthy.)

Somebody at the Associated Press saw Brunner’s post, decided to rephrase a few paragraphs from it, prefixed a dateline (“Seattle”) and then put it out on the wire. Incredibly, no attempt at all was made to add any value to what Brunner reported, which didn’t deserve to be put on the wire in the first place.

All that happened over the weekend was that Tim Eyman got a five-figure check and an “attaboy” from fellow followers of Grover Norquist. That’s nothing remarkable. Tim regularly takes in large contributions from deep pocketed corporations and cash-rich right wing groups – his initiative factory couldn’t survive without them.

Even using Eyman’s fortunate Friday to generate a lengthy profile of Eyman would have been an indefensible idea. But the person who generated this tripe didn’t even do that. It’s so worthless that it can’t even be called a semblance of an article or a report. The average Tim Eyman email contains more depth than what’s in the blockquote above, and that’s saying something.

Eyman himself blogs, leaves comments, and approaches reporters and editors constantly (whether they want to hear from him or not), so he hardly needs the Associated Press as a P.R. agency. But they seem to think that they’re obligated to give him publicity, as if they were under contract to promote him.

If that sounds like a harsh characterization, that’s because this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Or the second.

For background, read the following:

We’ve criticized the Associated Press in the past for similar tripe mostly related to Eyman’s activities, but they’ve shamelessly continued to generate more of it for no good reason. It’s like they don’t have anything better to do.

But of course that’s not the case. There’s legitimate news out there that needs to be reported, but is getting ignored or being given short shrift because the Associated Press’ employees have forgotten how to be journalists.

Instead of providing quality coverage of the 2011 legislative session or seeking to deepen public awareness of ongoing societal problems like crime or pollution, they’re celebrating Tim Eyman’s weekend – as if his good fortune was an important breaking news alert that needed to be communicated instantly, without being fleshed out into a proper story.

That they behave more like a P.R. agency for colorful characters they find fascinating, rather than a professional news organization (which is what they say they are) shows just how poor their content has become.

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