Paul Finebaum, the longtime sports journalist who is now at ESPN, has seen enough. On a recent episode of the Matt Barre show, Finebaum went off, saying that, “[The AJC] was irresponsible,” and later the AJC delivered a, “shattering blow to the media.”
He wasn’t done there, because he went on to say on his own show that, “I’ll never respect anything that they put out or publish again.”
Was this because the AJC sold the wholesale lie and helped push that a voter confidence law signed by Governor Kemp was Jim Crow 2.0? I wish. After all, one would hope that a sports guy like Finebaum would have previously noted how the AJC has had a negative impact by helping to sell a false narrative that claimed African American voters in Georgia would be disadvantaged under the new law. The Braves lost an All Star Game because of garbage like that.
But no. Finebaum’s ire comes a few days after the AJC fired investigative reporter, Alan Judd, after they internally determined that certain aspects of his story claiming that 11 UGA football players accused of abusing women didn’t rise to their own journalist standards. It turns out 9 of them could not be substantiated by members of the AJC’s own editorial team. As in, no one can name any of those nine at all. It’s as if Mr. Judd possibly made them up.
UGA, through their attorneys, had demanded the AJC retract the story in a nine page letter sent to the paper on July 11th. In that link you can see all of the reasons why UGA took the position accusing Judd and the AJC of fabricating, “knowingly or recklessly,” aspects of Judd’s story.
If you want to know where the real power is in this state don’t look to the Gold Dome, look instead to Athens, specifically Sanford Stadium. Because while the AJC did not retract the article, they went to work on rewording it and posting a correction. And of course, Mr. Judd lost his job to boot.
I have been in the room when news was made only to read an account in the paper the next day that wasn’t at all the same as what I saw with my own eyes. A few years ago I attended a rather civil town hall where members of the state DOT discussed improvements to Highway 92 through Woodstock. The attendees were inquisitive and asked a lot of the knowledgeable staff on hand at the meeting. But at no time did anyone get heated or offer anything other than a thoughtful discussion. That week my local paper made it seem like a local group of Tea Party Activists had stormed the place and had been overtly confrontational. I have never really trusted the media since then. And examples like Mr. Judd make me more suspicious than I was before.
Which is why when I noticed something in the last week, with this UGA/AJC saga fresh in my mind, I began contemplating if I was experiencing a version of the Mandela Effect.
For months I have read many articles about Fulton County DA Fani Willis’s investigation into a group of people who had gathered to offer themselves as an alternative slate of presidential electors, led by now erstwhile GAGOP Chair David Shafer. Articles like this one have been the rule for the AJC, wherein they use words like fake and phony to describe them, but not, “alternate.” And there are plenty of examples where the writer at the AJC never uses words like, “alternative,” and instead always uses fake or phony. Like this one. Or this one, both by Mark Niesse.
Occasionally a reporter for the AJC would toss in the use of the word alternative, sans quotation marks, but only to describe the actions that Shafer was taking at the time to gather the alternate slate together, such as this example by Maya Prabhu. In that article she describes the slate as fake 3 separate times apart from the headline, and uses the word alternative only once and in a specific context, but not to describe the individuals as anything other than fake electors.
Last week, a pair of tweets by AJC Reporters caught my eye:
In the link to the article posted in Hallerman’s tweet, we find an article written by AJC long-timer, Bill Rankin. He never specifically refers to the electors as alternative as found in the tweet of his article, choosing instead to employ the word false. But never alternative.
So what gives? I asked James Salzer, who is a good dude and great Atlanta United fan, since he was the first AJC reporter I have seen use word alternative. When I pointed out that in the February article I linked above, in which he and Greg Bluestein only referred to the electors as fake he said that, “Bluey” wrote most of that one and he only provided the research details.
But he also said something interesting to a nerd like me, “…our team covering the Fani Willis Investigation said they use ‘alternative’ on the first reference and then ‘fake’ after that in stories. No idea why, but that’s what they suggested.” But if so, I just provided a whole bunch of links where that isn’t the case going back over a year. Separately, he did say, “we’re not always consistent,” when using fake, phony, false, or alternate to describe the electors looking at indictments.
Why does it matter? And how is this related to UGA slapping Alan Judd around?
Because word choice and how this type of information is presented has the power to persuade and create biases and prejudices.
Allowing people to refer to SB 202 as Jim Crow 2.0 and then offering an even analysis when that comparison should have been widely mocked and ridiculed helps create and fuel a narrative. The biases and prejudices of that word choice helped create an environment where Major League baseball took the extraordinary step of stripping Atlanta from hosting an All Star Game. A decision MLB is already starting to reconsider, by the way, as the rhetoric pushed by the AJC and other media outlets has turned out to be without merit.
And it should matter to the AJC that they consistently present the facts of this situation, and every situation, using language to accurately describe how events are unfolding.
Because if you speak to anyone on the list of alternate electors, they believed the misinformation that was given to them. That if they didn’t do what they were doing, there was no shot at recourse for President Trump. I spoke to one back then when I tried to convince them that the election wasn’t stolen, and they did not believe me. Back then there were plenty of conflicting stories. So to them, I was the crazy one.
I mean, at one point, America’s Mayor was telling people that campaign workers were pulling suitcases full of ballots out of hiding to stuff the ballot boxes with fake ballots. Many of us knew right away that was bullshit, but not everyone knew details like those of us who could recognize that was legitimate activity and those weren’t suit cases, but regular ballot boxes. So, in the fog of war, an attorney came along and told these people they must follow the process as if they were the legitimate electors in order to preserve a potential legal remedy on behalf of the President.
And at every turn the AJC has been calling them fake, phony, or false.
Until this past week, when a guy got fired out of their investigative team for not upholding their journalistic standards.
So it is it plausible, and even likely that I have linked two completely unrelated events and created a narrative born of my own biases by connecting how the AJC covered UGA, the firing, and my perception of a shift in how the elector story is being covered. Or maybe I noticed a genuine shift and the timing is a coincidence. Or maybe they are being more careful in the wake of the UGA scandal.
I can tell you this much, if I had access to UGA’s legal counsel, I am certain the AJC would not have ignored how Bill Torpy ripped us off.