In the click bait age, it’s tempting for media outlets to sacrifice accuracy and objectivity for clicks and shares on social media. Fudging some numbers and framing a story in a misleading way is poor journalism, sure, but it may just get the most attention.
That’s what The Associated Press was up to in their new report about the number of Clinton Foundation donors Hillary Clinton met with as secretary of state.
It all started with this tweet on Tuesday night:
BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 23, 2016
In the story itself, the AP reported: “At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.”
The sample size of 154 meetings is ridiculous if you think about it for more than 10 seconds.
As the leader of the State Department, Clinton met with thousands of people. Instead of emphasizing that in their reporting, the AP cherry-picked a limited number of meetings to give off the impression that a majority of her interactions were with Clinton Foundation donors.
That simply isn’t the truth.
Even if we do examine the meetings the AP reported on, there was still nothing near scandalous to be found.
As Matthew Yglesias of Vox wrote today, “The State Department is a big operation. So is the Clinton Foundation. The AP put a lot of work into this project. And it couldn’t come up with anything that looks worse than helping a Nobel Prize winner, raising money to finance AIDS education, and doing an introduction for the chair of the Kennedy Center.”
The media has every right to examine the Clinton Foundation’s work, but they should do it in a way that is driven by facts, not the need to make noise and get clicks.
Perhaps they can talk about how a majority of people around the world getting AIDS medications received them from the Clinton Foundation. That’s an actual statistic, too, not a cherry-picked number meant to drive a media narrative.
Ultimately, the AP’s “bombshell” report did what it intended to do, which was create controversy and get people talking, but it was irresponsible and sloppy. The reporting was incomplete at best and intentionally misleading at worst.
But at the end of the day, it found no wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton or her family’s charitable organization – even if that wasn’t in the headline.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.