Friday, June 29, 2007

Half the Story

Philly mayor John F. Street gets iPhone - Yahoo! News

Along with all the rest of the iPhone hoopla today, there was this story about how the mayor of Philadelphia was one of the folks who waited in line to get one of the new gadgets on D-Day. Personally, gadget guru though I am, I can't see paying $500 for one of the things. Still, to each his own.

This story from the AP points out that a cheeky fellow named Larry West decided to confront the mayor and his decision to spend the day in line because, as he put it, there have been "200 murders in the city already" this year.

The story doesn't even get around to naming the mouthy citizen until the bottom. It only describes him as "a 22-year-old man sporting a mohawk."

Huh, you're probably saying. Or maybe you're saying that Mr. West is right. That the mayor should be at his office 24/7 doing... Well... Whatever it is that mayors do about crime. Either way, whatever. Fine.

Here's my problem with this story. Larry West isn't just some ordinary guy passing by on the street. He's a political activist, Green Party member and long shot candidate for mayor. I describe him as long shot for two reasons: 1. He has a mohawk. 2. He is, as the story says, 22 and the minimum age to be elected Mayor in Philly is 25.

I have nothing against the man except my natural, visceral hatred for anyone with a mohawk, his support for gay marriage and free condoms and the fact that I find his third-person written website more than slightly annoying. Actually, I guess I have a lot against him. Who knew?

Anyhoo, my real problem is that Rubina Madan of the AP didn't do her homework and left out what I think anybody would consider to be a fairly important detail. It took me 30 seconds on the internet to realize that Larry West wasn't some random man on the street. Why didn't Rubina report this?

P.S. 7/1/2007 -- After a subsequent search, I find that Ms. Madan is a 23 year-old intern with the AP. Her website can be found here. That may explain what I consider to be her error in this story. Of course, she does have a Master's in Journalism from Columbia, so maybe being an intern isn't much of an excuse. Still, I don't want to act like this mistake is a big deal in and of itself. This is a small story. My only concern is that sloppiness on a small story from a young reporter may turn into sloppiness on a big story from an older reporter.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Glad you read the article with such interest. Two quick points:

    a. I met Larry West, looked at his press kit and knew he was a "long-shot for mayor," as you put it.

    I discussed whether or not to mention this in the story when I talked to my editor, and we decided against it because it isn't possible for Larry to be elected mayor at this point because, as you pointed out, he is 22. He is not technically a mayoral candidate because he can't win.

    b. Being an intern has very little to do with anything. As my Web site mentions, I was a full-time education reporter before I got my master's from Columbia. I have been praised by several editors for my accuracy, and I didn't have a single correction during my time at the AP.

    Best regards,