If you weren’t already, I wanted you to be aware of this e-mail (below) making the rounds. I’m one who usually doesn’t get that worked up about what is & isn’t in the paper . . . nor am I a charter member of the Uncle Ted Fan Club. But if what is implied here is actually true (i.e., that someone at ADN consciously deleted/omitted the highlighted material from your story), it’s a serious breach of journalistic ethics. I hope you will look into it.
This from Justice Department reporter for The Associated Press this morning (Thursday) on the NSF/VECO connection. Somehow the Daily News did not report the following:
“NSF officials said both contracts were competitively bid and said the agency received no pressure from Stevens to award the contract to VECO.
“The Associated Press, using a Freedom of Information Act request, reviewed agency documents related to the contract and its correspondence with Stevens' office and found no evidence Stevens tried to influence the award.”
Thanks for checking with me about this. The AP story in question was apparently written on Thursday, after our story was published Thursday morning. The AP was chasing our story, trying to do in a day what our reporters had spent a week doing.
For the conspiracy theorist asserting that the Daily News cut this information from a story we published, I say: You’ve really got to pay more attention.
We didn’t run this story at all, with or without the “missing” paragraphs. The real allegation is that our original story did not include the apparently exculpatory information contained in the AP’s followup story. We asked the NSF to comment for the original story. They declined, as we reported in the story.
I would strongly encourage interested readers compare the two stories word for word. “Once-over-lightly” would be a charitable description of the AP story. The only portions of the AP story that had not already appeared in our story were the ones reproduced above, to wit:
NSF officials said both contracts were competitively bid and said the agency received no pressure from Stevens to award the contract to VECO. The Associated Press, using a Freedom of Information Act request, reviewed agency documents related to the contract and its correspondence with Stevens' office and found no evidence Stevens tried to influence the award.
As an editor, I have questions about this material.
First, who are the NSF officials? And how much credibility should I attach to this: Anonymous NSF sources say NSF and Sen. Stevens did nothing wrong.
At the Daily News, we normally would not let an anonymous source say anything, much less something so obviously self-serving. (A longer discussion of ADN policy on anonymous sources is on the Editor’s Blog.) Did the AP have two anonymous sources, three, four? And were they NSF officials directly involved in the contracting, or were they NSF public relations staffers repeating something they were told by someone else.
As for the document review, I’m not sure what to make of it. Did the AP reporter have all the documents on the contracts or some of them? Is it reasonable to assume that if someone had tried to influence the contracts, that the individuals involved would have memorialized the effort in writing? Is formal correspondence the only way to try to influence the award of a contract? Is the AP reporter familiar enough with NSF contracting to reliably spot questionable interactions?
A New York Times story about Stevens and the NSF, published this morning (Friday), has the NSF spokesman saying the agency cannot comment about anything involving the FBI inquiry. That’s the same thing we were told and we reported in our story. The Times actually had the opportunity to see the AP story, and they did not find AP’s anonymously sourced information worthy of inclusion.
As you can tell, I don't consider this AP story a model of good journalism. We have seen mistakes in other AP stories, by other AP reporters, on the corruption investigations that make us skeptical of their reporting on this topic.