Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bad, Bad Reporting

It's a shame to see how some California bloggers and mainstream media outlets are twisting the latest filings made by supporters of Proposition 8, the successful measure meant to ban gay marriage in the state.

The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and other sundry media outlets are falsely reporting that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints underreported by as much as a factor of 20 the money the church spent supporting the measure. Additionally, these outlets are also reporting that the church's filings of Jan. 31 are in response to an investigation prompted by opponents of the proposition into the church's financial dealings in the measure.

"Mormon church officials," writes the SF Chronicle, "facing an ongoing investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Friday reported nearly $190,000 in previously unlisted assistance to the successful campaign for Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California."

What the Chronicle and other outlets are not reporting is that the report is one of several the church filed, according to California election law, detailing the amount of money the church spent shortly before and after the Nov. 4 vote.

"The church has been filing required contribution reports throughout the campaign," a church spokesman says here. "Those earlier donations 'initially stated' were filed for specific time periods prior to this last reporting period."

In other words, the church has not underreported a thing. It has complied with California law that allows groups such as the church up until Jan. 31 to report the full amount spent. When these outlets say the church underreported what it spent on the proposition campaign, they're comparing the final tally to only a portion of the amount spent and previously reported.

In other words, what bonehead writers and editors made this dumb, elementary reporter's mistake of letting bias get in the way of fact?

Anyone who thinks the church would make such an elementary mistake as to underreport what was spent is foolish. Again, they are grabbing at straws to find a way to overturn the will of California voters. TIME magazine has gleefully described church heirarchy as "hard-nosed businessmen." As such, they're not likely to make such an elementary error.

The Associated Press has reported this information correctly here.

That the Chronicle and other outlets have grossly misreported this story shows their bias, and shows that the writers and editors of these pieces prefer to frame their stories in ways to please Proposition 8 opponents rather than in a way that states fact. That others are spreading their errors on the Internet is shameful. I'd like to see corrections made, but I'm not holding my breath.

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