Saturday, August 8, 2009

Does AP stand for Agenda Pope?

There's an epiphany in "Philip's Code" where the central character realizes the wire service he works for is so powerful it is "the Vatican of news," meaning it has the last word on, well, words. The coverage of the Sonia Sotomayor trek to the Supreme Court serves as a good example. Sotomayor was billed as the "first Hispanic" on the court, a term the Associated Press ran with, which meant just about all news outlets followed. But, hold on. Is a news reformation going on? Bloggers brought up the name of Benjamin N. Cardozo, named to the court in the 1930s. Was he the first Hispanic? Pretty much depends on how one defines "Hispanic," which set off a lively, and interesting, debate on the Internet. Some insisted Cordozo qualified because his ancestry could be traced to Portugal, which butts up against Spain. Others said no way. Cardozo probably never heard the word "Hispanic." I'll bet he thought of himself as an American who was Jewish. Which brings up another interesting point. Cardozo was appointed at a time, which is in living memory, when religion played an import part in selections for the court. There were "Jewish seats" and "Catholic seats." Little noted, except by bloggers, is the fact that Sotomayor gives the court six Catholics. Not an issue - if the Catholicism of other nominees hadn't been controversial.
The AP could have noted the blog disputes, not with some meaningless sidebar, but, briefly, in its main story. What we need is a news counter-reformation instead of a reformation - one in which trust is established. Otherwise we will continue to see individual interpretation of the news.

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