Who am I to scrub? Did AP pull story about Pope Francis, teachers and same-sex marriage?


If you have ever worked for a 24/7 wire service, or worked for a copy desk that deals with wire-service news copy, you know that it's very common for the Associated Press, Reuters and other wires to update stories. Sometimes they even add additional content -- this used to be called a "write-thru" -- that updates a story to make it longer and more complete.

Of course, there are also times when wire-service professionals make mistakes and, thus, their newsrooms issue corrections. Wire corrections are especially important since these organizations produce copy that is literally used in publications all around the world, as opposed to one news publication in one location. Wire mistakes were "viral" long before the digital concept of "viral" was even born.

What is rare, however, is for a wire service to make -- to the best of its ability -- a flawed or incorrect story completely vanish. In the Internet age it is ultra hard to scrub away evidence that a story was published.

However, that appears -- I repeat appears -- to be what happened with the story that GetReligion ripped into yesterday in a post that ran under the headline: "Associated Press editors seem to be saying, 'Who are we to report on Catholic teachings?' "

Now, when I wrote that post, this URL at the Associated Press site took you to a lengthy story that began like this: 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pope Francis refined his vision for the church last week when he said long-spurned divorced and remarried Catholics should be welcomed with "open doors." And he has famously parsed centuries of thought on homosexuality into a five-word quip: "Who am I to judge?"

The story then proceeded -- note the crucial word "yet" -- to link that famous out-of-context soundbite from Pope Francis with one of the hottest issues, right now, in Catholic education: Should Catholic schools be able to fire teachers (who voluntarily sought jobs at doctrinally defined schools) who publicly reject key elements of Catholic doctrine?

Yet the Archdiocese of Philadelphia opened its door only briefly when married gay teacher Margie Winters, trailed by supporters, arrived Monday with 23,000 petitions seeking reinstatement to her job at a Catholic elementary school. ...
Winters, 50, lost her job at Waldron Mercy Academy in June after a parent complained about her 2007 marriage to a woman. Her case highlights the shifting fault lines over gays in the church -- and in church workplaces -- just before the pope visits Philadelphia next month for the World Meeting of Families.

However, if you clicked that same URL yesterday afternoon (hat tip to GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway of The Federalist), and this is still the case today, you are taken to a five-paragraph story that begins like this:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The principal of a suburban Philadelphia Catholic school plans to hold a meeting with parents next month about a gay teacher fired over her same-sex marriage.
The Philadelphia Inquirer says Waldron Mercy Academy principal Nell Stetser acknowledged the decision not to renew Margie Winters' contract "continues to cause a great deal of pain and heartfelt questioning."
A date for the September meeting wasn't immediately available. 

No out-of-context papal quote. No "famously parsed" reference to centuries of Catholic thought. No "yet" implying that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was rejecting the ministry of its own pope.

As I wrote yesterday, concerning this horrid AP lede:

"Who am I to judge?" doesn't even parse what the pope had to say in that one press op, let alone what Francis has had to say on these issues in other settings. But "centuries of (church) thought" on same-sex temptations and, yes, sexual acts outside of the sacrament of marriage that the church considers objective mortal sins?
This copy went through supposedly neutral Associated Press editors?

So what appears to have happened to this story?

If you go to the Associated Press homepage and search for that interesting word "parsed," you will not find this story.

However, if you go to Google News and run a logical search -- say "Francis" and "famously parsed centuries of thought" -- you will find commentary on the original story, as well as actual copies of the story itself that remain posed on news websites.

There's The Charlotte Observer (where I once worked). Or how about the LGBT news section of The Japan Times? You can also reach the original AP report through Out@NBCUniversal, using its Facebook page to get to a live link.

So here is my question: Was this story simply spiked, as in yanked, pulled, killed or scrubbed? If this was the case, why did the editors do this? If the story contained errors, why weren't these errors publicly corrected?

Corrections are important. This kind of journalistic leadership and candor is especially important these days, since it is almost impossible to scrub the Internet.

Just saying. Correction, please.

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