This one is a tough one to write; but I’ve been saying it for a long time. The Associated Press no longer can be regarded as a credible news source when it comes to reporting on the military.
Now I’m shouting it out — minus the expletives going through my mind — the AP can no longer be trusted to provide reliable news stories about the military.
Today, an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker crashed in a remote region of Kyrgizstan. The aircraft had taken off from Transit Center at Manas, the U.S. base in that country.
At this time (4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), the fate of the crew is unknown.
However, this not about the crash itself, rather it’s about AP’s continuing inability to provide accurate facts anymore when it comes to reporting on the military.
Here is the AP’s story lede:
CHALDOVAR, Kyrgyzstan – An American military tanker refueling plane carrying three crew members crashed Friday in the rugged mountains of Kyrgyzstan, the Central Asian nation where the U.S. operates an air base key to the war in Afghanistan.
There was no immediate word on the fate of the crew. If any of them managed to eject from the KC-135 plane, the search for them would be complicated by the harsh terrain in the region.
What is incorrect is that the KC-135 does not have ejection seats — nor does it carry parachutes for the crew. Parachutes were removed from this particular type aircraft in 2008. When the AP reporter put this story together, he relied on a foreign reporter from Kyrgyzstan — who has limited knowledge of American aircraft — mentioning the ejection seats in their two-line report. This error was then transferred into the AP story, and copy editors failed to check this out.
The problem is that news organizations such as CBS, Fox News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and dozens of other news outlets that rely on AP, reported the error.
OK, they made a mistake. Yes, but the error is now multiplied across the country without any correction forthcoming, and there are hundreds of families, friends and interested people reading the error.
For future reference there are other military aircraft that don’t have ejection seats or parachutes available for the crews, including the Navy’s C-2 Greyhound — which I’ve spent plenty of time flying in — the E-3 Sentry AWACs, and even Air Force One.
Recommendation: Treat AP military stories like Wikipedia; a starting point were every fact needs to be checked before throwing it up on the Web or in print.
You can read more errors in AP stories on this site.