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Instead of reporting on the reality of life under the regime, the AP—blinded and hobbled by its accommodations and relationships—helped obscure what was actually happening inside Germany and the way the Nazis waged war.
The impact at the time is hard to determine, Scharnberg writes: “Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that the intuitive sympathies and antipathies of American newspaper readers were not unaffected, at least in the short-term, by pictures that usually depicted the Germans as triumphant blitzkrieg fighters and their opponents as sullen, sly military failures.” The historian’s report was damaging enough to warrant a fascinating and deeply researched counter-report from the AP on its wartime record, published last month.
When a reporter wrote a story about Hamas censorship in the summer of 2014, editors shelved it.
We were trading truth for access and providing an illusion of “coverage” that was actually propaganda—a kind all the more effective because it was not tagged “propaganda” but simply “Gaza City (AP).” You can show genuine footage of a house destroyed by an Israeli strike, but if you don’t show the Hamas fighters launching a rocket from the backyard, your report is a lie.
Hamas military actions were left vague or ignored, while the effects of Israeli actions were reported at length, giving the impression of wanton Israeli aggression, just as Hamas wanted.The result, in many cases, is something worse than no coverage—it’s something that looks like coverage, but is actually misinformation, giving people the illusion that they know what’s going on instead of telling them outright that they’re getting information shaped by regimes trying to mislead them.A good example came to light in 2014, seven decades after the moral confusion detailed in Scharnberg’s report, with the publication of a detailed exposé on the AP’s bureau in North Korea.It sounds familiar: The “bureau” in Pyongyang, wrote veteran journalist Nate Thayer, reporting for the specialist website NKNews.com, was not staffed by AP reporters from outside the country: The full-time staffers were North Koreans who were paid by AP but answered to the regime.A written agreement between the AP and the North Korean government allowed the AP to sell propaganda images, like those lovely choreographed rallies, outside the country, while the North Korean “staffers” studiously avoided subjects like mass starvation and prison camps.
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(The AP was unhappy with Thayer’s report and dismissed his claims, but it didn’t refute them.) The most relevant example from my own experience as an AP correspondent in Jerusalem between 20 is Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and where the AP has a sub-bureau.