Friday, February 03, 2006

Editing for Fairness

Here is reason one for not doing Ctrl-CursorDown editing -- it can rapidly produce one-sided stories.

Exhibit A: The AP story on the FTC's crackdown on credit-repair companies, particularly Bad Credit B Gone.

The link I gave you to the story above is to the Web site of a paper that ran the entire AP story on the Web. Unfortunately, in its printed edition, it ran only this:

WASHINGTON — Bad Credit B Gone is one of 20 companies accused by government regulators of making promises to remove negative information from consumers’ credit reports — promises they can’t keep.

“The fact is, they can’t deliver on their claims. No one can legally remove accurate and timely information from your credit record,” Eileen Harrington, deputy director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Thursday.

Harrington announced a joint federal-state sweep against companies accused of running sham credit repair operations.

The crackdown, dubbed “Project Credit Despair,” also involved the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and state law enforcement agencies in Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, California, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida.

Ten of the cases were from Louisiana. Susan Jandle, a state review examiner with the Office of Financial Institutions, said many consumers in Louisiana are behind on mortgages, car payments and other loans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The credit repair companies “see our consumers as a target group,” she said.

In the case of Bad Credit B Gone, the FTC said the Philadelphia-based company promised would-be clients “the credit you always dreamed of!”

It charged $500 per person and $700 per couple — and half of the money was due upfront, Harrington said.

Bad Credit B Gone has been charged with violating the FTC Act by making false or misleading statements. The company’s assets have been frozen, and the commission is trying to require Bad Credit B Gone to refund consumers’ money.

See anything wrong? Like, perhaps, where is there any indication of an attempt to get Bad Credit B Gone's reponse? it's called basic fairness, and it's our jobs to meet that, no matter what the space or how much time we have to handle a story. By simply chopping from the bottom, the paper left out this next sentence:

A phone number for the company was not in service, and company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

So at least the AP got it right -- sort of. Putting the company's response -- or lack of -- in the 8th graf of an 11-graf story (in the paper's version, which split some of the original grafs, it would have been the 10th graf) was poor judgment for this very reason -- too often wire stories are edited with a meat cleaver.

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