This morning's Intelligencer features a front-page story from the Associated Press on Clean Water Bill. The original AP article barely mentions Senator Joe Manchin and it apparently wasn't anti-EPA enough for the Intelligencer and so they changed it:
First, the "newspaper" added a Manchin picture and then added a long word-for-word paragraph straight from a Manchin press release. Here are the paragraphs in the Intelligencer article that mention Senator Manchin. The paragraph in bold is not part of the original AP article and comes word-for-word from Manchin's website.
The Senate bill, similar to legislation passed by the House last year, would force the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw and rewrite the rules. Four Democrats voted with Republicans on the measure - Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
"The EPA wrote and finalized this rule without consulting some of the people who care about clean water the most - everyday West Virginians and Americans," Manchin said. "This overreaching rule would impose a heavy financial burden on all of us and would lead interruptions on myriad of economic activities in West Virginia, including highway and road construction, farming and a variety of public works projects. It is completely unreasonable that under the EPA's (Waters of the United States) rule, our country's unnavigable waters would be subject to the same regulations as our greatest lakes and rivers, and we cannot allow this rule to be implemented as it is currently written."
Second, the Intelligencer dropped the EPA's answer to what the critics said about extra permits and small bodies of water leaving readers with the impression that the EPA had no answer for the criticisms.
Here is the Intelligencer's final paragraph:
Farm and business groups are among the rules' chief opponents, and more than half the states have sued the government in an attempt to block them. Officials from states such as Georgia, New Mexico and Wisconsin have suggested the regulations could be harmful to farmers and landowners who might have to pay for extra permits or redesign their property to manage small bodies of water on their private land.
And here is what was dropped from the AP story:
The EPA has argued the criticism is overblown. Since the rules were originally proposed last year, the agency has been working to clear up some misconceptions, like some critics' assertions that average backyard puddles would be regulated. Current exemptions from the Clean Water Act for farming practices, including plowing, seeding and the movement of livestock, among other things, will continue.
Republicans and landowners concerned about the rules' reach say they believe they won't eventually go into effect.
Some thoughts on this Intelligencer article
For space considerations, newspapers sometimes shorten AP stories. In this case, however, the EPA's answer to its critics was dropped - so much for balance.
When material is added to a newspaper's story, the byline is usually changed to reflect those additions. (For example, "by John Doe. The article contains additional material from Senator Manchin's website.") The Intelligencer misled its readership -- what was in this morning's Intelligencer was not the same as the original AP story and the differences should have been noted.
The story used unattributed material from a press release. Here is what the AP says about the importance of acknowledging sources:
If we quote someone from a written document – a report, e-mail or news release -- we should say so.
If you go to the American Society of News Editors' (ASNE) webpage, you can follow links to the ethics codes of a wide variety news sources. Most codes make it very clear that such action is unacceptable. Most have a statement similar to the following from the Houston Chronicle:
Material that is used from press releases or Web sites should be attributed to those sources.
Unethical behavior and a lack of objectivity -- so what else is new?
By the way, I looked but could not find their code of ethics.