The use of a single anonymous source at one of the world’s most respected news outlets sparked global fears of a nuclear escalation in minutes
It was the night the world went on high alert: Russia’s war in Ukraine may have spilled over into NATO territory.
On the evening of November 15, the Associated Press carried breaking news that a “senior US intelligence official” had claimed that Russian missiles had “penetrated NATO member Poland and killed two people.”
The report, from one of the world’s most trusted and revered news organizations, sent newsrooms around the world into high gear as they tried to validate the news, get it through to readers and send reporters to the field.
With more than half the world’s population seeing AP’s journalism every day, the organization itself said the information was being spread at warp speed, fueling fears of a deadly escalation between nuclear-armed states and “World War III.”
In Bali for the G20, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was jolted awake for high-level phone calls before world leaders convened at 8:30am local time. Ukraine blamed the Russian forces squarely.
But officials in Poland and the US were quick to call for calm. US President Joe Biden said it was “unlikely” that the missile had been launched from Russia, and Nato leaders instead noted that the missile was likely launched by a Ukrainian air defense system — still considered the most likely scenario is seen.
The next day, AP issued a correction: “In earlier versions of a story published on November 15, 2022, The Associated Press incorrectly reported, based on information from a senior American intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, that Russian missiles had flown into Poland and.” killed two people. Subsequent reports indicated that the missiles were manufactured in Russia and most likely launched by Ukraine to repel a Russian attack.”
Now the journalist behind the first report, who has been identified as 35-year-old investigative journalist James LaPorta, has been fired by the news agency after breaching its standards The daily beast. News allegedly leaked from inside the organization shows the process that led to the alert, showing Mr. LaPorta saying the decision to send the alert was “above my pay grade.” The alert was reportedly sent by AP Europe Desk Editor Lisa Leff less than 10 minutes after Mr. LaPorta’s initial message, internal messages appear to indicate.
The daily beast — who has also hired former Marine Mr. LaPorta as a staffer in the past — noted that AP News’ values and principles allow material from anonymous sources to be used only if it meets certain conditions.
This includes “information and not opinion or speculation” which is critical to the report. Other conditions read: “The information is available only under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source” and “The source is reliable and able to have direct knowledge of the information.”
AP also states that it “routinely seeks and requires more than one source when sourcing is anonymous. Stories should be retained while attempting to reach additional sources for confirmation or elaboration. In rare cases, a single source will suffice – when the material comes from an authoritative person who provides information so detailed that there can be no doubt as to its accuracy.”
A spokesman for the Associated Press did not comment on Mr. LaPorta’s position, but said I: “The Associated Press’s rigorous editorial standards and practices are critical to AP’s mission as an independent news organization.
“To ensure our reporting is accurate, fair and fact-based, we adhere to and enforce these standards, including the use of anonymous sources.
“When our standards are violated, we must take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of the news report. We do not make these decisions lightly, nor do we base them on individual cases.”
Mr. LaPorta has not publicly commented on the incident, but said on Tuesday, “I would like to thank the multitude of journalists, editors and longtime readers who have reached out to me with words of encouragement and kindness. It truly means the world.”
It was revealed on Tuesday that Emmanuel Macron, posing as French President, spoke to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda for over seven minutes the night the rocket struck.
In a seven-minute recording of the call posted online by Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus, Mr Duda can be heard speaking in English to the caller, who is trying to put on a French accent.
“Emmanuel, believe me, I’m being extra careful,” says Mr. Duda. “I don’t want war with Russia and believe me I’m being extra careful, extra careful.”
His office said the incident was being investigated, adding: “Following the rocket blast in Przewodow, during ongoing talks with leaders, a person claiming to be French President Emmanuel Macron was linked.
“During the phone call, President Andrzej Duda realized from the unusual way in which the interlocutor conducted the conversation that it could have been an attempted joke and ended the conversation.”
In 2020, Vovan and Lexus called Duda, pretending to be UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and asked questions about security and call monitoring at Mr Duda’s office.
Vovan and Lexus are known in Russia for pranking celebrities and politicians and have in the past tricked Macron, Elton John and Boris Johnson, among others.
With news agencies