AP Denies Equating ‘Anti-war’ With ‘Anti-troops’

By: Rafe Bartholomew

The Associated Press responded to criticism of its war coverage from the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), saying in an e-mail to E&P Friday that “we have not been using the term ‘pro-troops’ as being interchangeable with ‘pro-war.'” AP added, “Neither have our stories implied that ‘anti-war’ is synonymous with ‘anti-troops.'”

The statement is in response to a March 26 action alert released on FAIR’s Web site (www.fair.org). It said AP had “frequently used the terms ‘pro-war’ and ‘pro-troops’ interchangeably.” Not only was this formulation misleading and inaccurate, said Jim Naureckas, editor of FAIR’s Extra! Magazine and author of the alert, but when printed next to “anti-war,” “pro-troop” wrongly implied that the anti-war movement was anti-troop. “That’s a very big slur against millions of Americans who are against the war but concerned about the troops’ safety,” Naureckas said.

The alert generated over 1,400 e-mail complaints to AP, one of the largest responses FAIR has ever gotten, according to Naureckas. The activist group Move On took up FAIR’s cause and brought in thousands more letters, he said.

But Jack Stokes, media relations manager for AP, said he hadn’t heard of the massive e-mail campaign, and he defended AP’s usage. “There are probably more nuances in this war situation than any one ever before,” he said. “‘Anti-war’ doesn’t tell you all the ranges of views that people in that group have and ‘pro-troop’ certainly doesn’t. The stories are trying to nail down exactly what those labels mean.”

Despite AP’s denial that a problem ever existed, Naureckas thinks the campaign has had an effect. “They’ve cut down on their use of ‘pro-troops’ to mean ‘pro-war,'” he said. Though, he added, “They may be afraid of putting out a rule on this for fear of giving in to the anti-war movement.”

See E&P‘s complete coverage of Iraq and the Press.

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