Posted in Announcements

Statement on why AP deletes Clinton tweet

, by John Daniszewski

The Associated Press today is deleting a 2-week-old tweet about Hillary Clinton’s meetings as Cabinet secretary after concluding the tweet fell short of AP standards by omitting essential context.

At the same time, we are revising our practices to require removal and correction of any AP tweets found not to meet AP standards, including tweets that contain information that is incorrect, misleading, unclear or could be interpreted as unfair, or having a problem in tone.

The tweet sent on Aug. 23 was the subject of criticism from supporters of Clinton, a number of people in the media and others who said it gave a distorted picture of the secretary’s meetings and was not backed up by the AP’s own reporting.

The tweet was intended to direct readers to an AP story that reviewed the frequency of meetings between Clinton and donors to her family’s charitable foundation while she was secretary of state.

Based on a review of Clinton’s available State Department calendar records that AP obtained through legal action, the story focused specifically on her discretionary meetings, rather than the meetings with government officials that made up the bulk of her workday. The story found that 85 of the 154 people in those discretionary meetings had donated or pledged to the Clinton Foundation or its programs, or they worked for organizations that had. Clinton later said she would have met with those individuals whether they donated or not and promised additional measures to prevent the appearance of conflicts with the charity should she win the White House.

The tweet omitted the important distinction between discretionary meetings and official meetings. It read:

BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.

It now will be replaced by a tweet that says:

AP review: Many of the discretionary meetings Clinton had at State were with people who gave to Clinton Foundation.

Prior to this guideline change, whether to delete or update tweets had been left to AP news managers to decide on a case-by-case basis. The new guidance is mandatory, subjecting tweets to the same internal review and response process as other AP content.

In the earlier days of Twitter, there had been a belief that removing tweets was akin to retroactively editing a conversation; it wasn't transparent. Additionally, tweets were seen more as providing paths to in-depth content and less as content in themselves that would remain in the public discussion for an extended period. Industry thinking on this topic has been changing. And the controversy over the AP tweet has led us to an extensive reflection on this evolution.

Under the revisions now in effect, whenever AP deletes content from Twitter, AP will send out a separate tweet giving the reason for the removal, which provides clarity to the public. In most cases, AP will then transmit a replacement tweet.

“We have to be the AP, wherever our work is being distributed,” said AP’s executive editor, Kathleen Carroll. "Do we wish we had gotten to this conclusion earlier than we did? Absolutely.

“Unpacking how we fell short of our own standards is a painful process, but a necessary one. The new guidelines are stronger as a result.”

In addition to removing the Clinton tweet, AP also decided to remove a tweet from Aug. 27 that editors concluded failed to meet standards on tone because it seemed to equate the responses of Donald Trump and NBA star Dwyane Wade to the tragic slaying of Wade’s cousin, Nykea Aldridge.

To underscore and implement these guidelines worldwide, the AP has conducted training this week for editors, a part of our normal constant review and training to improve how we do what we do everywhere.

--John Daniszewski, Vice President for Standards