October 18, 2017

There they go again: AJC editors edit inaccurate online news stories with zero notation to readers – how to make false statements disappear

Posted by D.A. King at 1:02 am - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  

photo: AJC


There they go again. The editors at the AJC routinely post online news articles with inaccurate “facts.” Then, if they are challenged, change the copy without any notation or admission of error. And it happens a lot.

The latest case we know of comes in a story about DACA recipients, how hard life is for victims of borders and how they tell their story by painting the outside of a liquor store on Buford Highway. In it, an AJC education reporter, Vanessa McCray, mentions that Georgia is home to “about 24,000” illegal aliens (she used “undocumented immigrants” – but it is just too ridiculous to label these illegals ‘undocumented’ when they have been given work permits, valid Social Security Numbers and drivers licenses).

McCray’s news report came just days after one from AJC immigration reporter Jeremy Redmon who cited a report from USCIS that put the number of DACA winners at 21,600.

I noted the difference, and sent McCray a note asking about her source for the 24,000.

In the meantime, as part of a separate conversation on DACA statistics and legal status (attention AJC editors), I also asked the USCIS spokesperson, Pamela Wilson, about the differing numbers and if she had seen the AJC stories. Wilson was kind enough to get back to me quickly and explained the obvious – that the 21,600 figure was from September and the 24,000 figure was from June. Apparently 2400-ish DACA “children” left the state since June – which is also puzzling…

Yesterday I was surprised to get a call from AJC reporter McCray who explained that the 24,000 number she used was old and from June. She then informed me that the figure had been changed to reflect the September report from USCIS. She seemed nice.

This is a simple and easy to understand oversight. Especially for reporter on a story mostly off her beat. It is heartening – and unusual – that an AJC reporter called here in response to an email question to say a stat was corrected. All cool.

But the AJC editors refuse to acknowledge mistakes like this. They simply edit the story – in this case after it was online for at least four days – and never note the update or correction for readers. I don’t know if McCray’s piece was in the hard copy newspaper, but the online version also features a video that apparently cannot be updated as it still has the 24,000 number.


Here is another example of editing and correcting without a notation. This one is from the AJC Political Insider blog during the 2017 Georgia General Assembly. We are pretty sure Jim Galloway wrote the story which was critical of a House bill involving regulations protecting sand dunes on the coast.

They headlined it “How to make a sand dune on the Georgia coast disappear.”

But it turned out that the blog was as much about how to make a false statement disappear in the AJC.

The original version of the story, which can still be read on the invaluable Way Back machine website, contained a statement telling readers that “the bill would cut in half the strip of beach that falls under the shadow of the state Shore Protection Act, from 50 to 25 feet” (my emphasis). It was the fourth paragraph.

It was quickly revealed in the Capitol that the statement was not true. So…poof. It was excised from the story and you cannot see it on the revised version. As usual, there is no note to readers of the deletion edit or that the story was corrected or changed. Or wrong.

I pointed this out to a gang of senior AJC management when it happened. I never heard back from any of them.

At the “Credible. Compelling. Complete” AJC, this happens a lot.


update: “Sentence with “Then” in first paragraph corrected Oct. 20, 1:07PM