Business News: Associated Press’ internal messages show what led to retracted missile story that got reporter fired


Leaked internal messages from the Associated Press reveal the reporter canned for filing the erroneous story that Russian-fired missiles crossed into Poland may have been a scapegoat for mistakes made by the outlet’s editors.

AP’s security reporter James LaPorta penned the story on Nov. 15 that Russian missiles were fired into Poland, killing two people. The news organization retracted the story the next day once it came to light that Ukraine likely fired the anti-missile rockets during Russia’s wave of bombings.

LaPorta was fired Monday, but messages about the incident between him and his editors on AP’s internal Slack channel, obtained by Traffic lightscast doubt on who is to blame for publishing the bogus story.

LaPorta sent a Slack message to AP European desk editor Lisa Leff on Nov. 15, saying the report came from a US source vetted by AP vice president of news and investigations Ron Dixon.

“From a senior intelligence official (vetted by Ron Dixon) yes, Russian missiles crossed into Poland. At least two people dead from initial reports,” LaPorta wrote.

Business News: Associated Press’ internal messages show what led to retracted missile story that got reporter fired
James LaPorta only quoted one anonymous source in the piece, which turned out to have provided erroneous information.
AP

“Can we alert from that or would we need confirmation from another source and/or Poland?” Leff answered.

“That call is above my pay grade,” LaPorta responded.

“Yes should be ok I see source vetted by @rnixon,” AP deputy European news editor Zeina Karam chimed in via Slack.

Aerial view taken on November 17, 2022 shows the site where a missile strike killed two men in the eastern Poland village of Przewodow, near the border with war-ravaged Ukraine on November 15, 2022.
Aerial view shows the site where a missile strike killed two men in the eastern Poland village of Przewodow, near the border with war-ravaged Ukraine on November 15, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images

Within 10 minutes of LaPorta’s first message, the AP sent out an alert on the Russian missile strike.

However, Nixon never saw the tip attributed to the intelligence official, according to Semafor.

“While Nixon had approved the use of that specific anonymous source in the past, people involved said, Nixon was not aware of that tip or that story,” the online publication wrote. “LaPorta did not exactly claim that Nixon had approved the source in this case, but his words were interpreted by the editors to mean that he did.”

Police look for pieces of the missile near the explosion site in Przewodow, Poland, on November 17, 2022.
Police look for pieces of the missile near the explosion site in Przewodow, Poland.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

The AP did not comment on the leaked messages.

A spokesperson told The Post on Wednesday that LaPorta was fired because “the story did not meet our standards. We continue to look into every aspect of what happened.”

“When our standards are violated, we must take the steps necessary to protect the integrity of the news report. We do not make these decisions lightly, nor are they based on isolated incidents,” the rep added.

The AP published a report Tuesday noting that “there has been other disciplinary action taken” beyond the firing of LaPorta.

The AP fired reporter James LaPorta once the story was deemed incorrect.
The AP fired reporter James LaPorta once the story was deemed incorrect.
Getty Images

“The AP is reviewing all aspects of the story and the way it was handled, and how the material made it to the wire,” said Julie Pace, AP’s senior vice president and executive editor.

LaPorta had been with the AP since 2020 after stints at Newsweek, PBS’ “Frontline” and the Daily Beast.

“I would love to comment on the record, but I have been ordered by the AP to not comment,” he said after being fired.

He also posted on Twitter: “I’d like to thank the multitude of journalists, editors and long-time readers that have reached out to me with words of encouragement and kindness. It sincerely means the world.”

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