Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AP uses sledge hammer on reporter Bob Lewis - UPDATED

The news heard 'round the internet on Monday was long-time Richmond-based reporter Bob Lewis' firing by the Associated Press. Social media lit up as supporters from all sides of the political aisle expressed shock that his earlier suspension had turned into a pink slip as he was booted out the AP door.

The entire episode began two weeks earlier, as reported by Andrew Cain with the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
AP erroneously reported the evening of Oct. 9 that documents in a federal fraud case in Rhode Island alleged that McAuliffe “lied to a federal official” investigating Joseph Caramadre, a Rhode Island estate planner who is accused of defrauding terminally ill people.

In a bulletin that night killing the story about 90 minutes after it was first posted, AP said “the indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the ‘T.M.’ who allegedly lied to investigators.”
To hear the AP retract a story sent a shiver throughout the news world. To have the questioned article be authored by Bob Lewis was even more stunning after his 28 years with the AP.

It certainly has caused a stir in Virginia's political atmosphere. From the RTD:
Lewis and Potter “have always been fair, tough and smart. Virginians deserve dedicated reporters like them,” Gov. Bob McDonnell tweeted.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling tweeted: “Sorry to see the AP fire Bob Lewis. Bob is one of the most respected reporters in Richmond. We all make mistakes. Bob did not deserve this.”

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., tweeted: “AP’s Bob Lewis has been a fixture at the Va Capitol and his reporting will be missed by Virginians. Best wishes at a tough moment, Bob.”

Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va. tweeted: “Big loss for Virginia. @APBobLewis is an even-handed, talented reporter & a class act.”
As many question whether Lewis' firing was overreaction by AP, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore took to Facebook to advocate on Lewis' behalf Monday, writing, "I add my voice calling for the AP to reinstate Bob Lewis and Dena Potter. Bob Lewis is 'Mr. AP.' They made a mistake but corrected it immediately. What if they fired every reporter who made a mistake? I got a list."

Wherever he goes, Bob Lewis will have a built-in audience of those who have followed -- and respected -- his work for years. Count me as one of them.

Update:  The reaction from Lowell at Blue Virginia and the Richmond Democrat, er, The Richmonder, confirms that reactions to Bob Lewis' firing are bipartisan even among bloggers, a good reflection of a good reporter.

Update #2: The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that a third person has been fired by the AP even as the News Media Guild has filed grievances on behalf of Lewis and his colleagues.

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