Tim Longhurst's Blog

Palin calls elected leader a dictator, AP ignores error

October 25th, 2008 · 9 Comments

Sarah Palin this week mistakenly called a democratically-elected president of a foreign state a dictator. In response, Hugo Chavez, who was in 2006 re-elected by a convincing 60% of voters, evoked Jesus, remarking, “Forgive her, for she knows not what she says.”.

So now you know the story: Chavez is not a dictator, he’s the popularly-elected leader of Venezuala. Palin didn’t know even this most basic fact about Venezuala, and yet felt qualified to threaten that country with sanctions.

The Associated Press’ version of this story does not once point out that Venezuala is a democracy. Without this significant piece of context, Palin’s innacurate assertion that Chavez is a dictator goes unchallenged.

The gaffe of Palin’s may be unclear to many readers, and the dismissive nature of Chavez’ comments may seem unfairly condecending and out of line without any clarifying statements.

Here’s the story, as it appears at this moment, (archived in full for purposes of criticism/critique):

Venezuela’s Chavez: Palin a pitiful ‘beauty queen’


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a “poor thing” who didn’t know what she was saying when she called him a dictator.

Friday’s verbal attack was the latest in long history of creative insults by Chavez — but was not unprovoked.

In an interview with the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision aired Tuesday, Palin remarked that “through negotiations or sanctions, if necessary, we can pressure dictators like Hugo Chavez to make it clear that they cannot mess with the United States whenever they feel like it.”

Speaking at an event to inaugurate a thermoelectric plant, Chavez said he had heard of Palin’s remarks.

“The poor thing, you have to feel sorry for her,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. Palin, he said, is “a beauty queen that they’ve put in the role of a figurine.”

Chavez said one must do as Christ did: “Forgive her, for she knows not what she says.”

Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate surprised the nation and prompted questions about her qualifications to serve as vice president. The McCain campaign had no comment on Chavez’ comment.

Palin, the governor of Alaska, says she would take the lead as vice president in energy policy, overall government reform and working with families who have special-needs children.

This article will almost certainly be syndicated by hundreds, if not thousands of news organisations around the world.

If such careless journalism had occured on a blog or other social media, an early commentor would almost certainly point out the complete lack of context.

Unfortunately, the Associated Press’ traditional publishing model leaves time-consuming details like accuracy or clarification at the door. Readers are not provided with so much as an email address to offer comments or express concern.

The article will be read unchallenged and unedited by thousands around the world.

Participatory Media: 1
Centralised Media: 0

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Category: Communication and connection

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