The best and worst of JFK journalism

Two Associated Press stories published today by Washingtonpost.com illuminate the best and the worst of journalism about JFK’s assassination.

The worst: “Five decades after JFK’s assassination the lucrative conspiracy industry hums along.”

This story recycles a hardy but dubious theme that the pursuit of profits by JFK conspiracy theorists drives the public’s overwhelming rejection of the official theory of a lone gunman.

“For a select few, there’s been good money in keeping the controversy alive,” the story claims.

AP at its worst

In fact, the reporting in the story refutes this claim. The biggest selling JFK book of the year by far is Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy,” which is anti-conspiracy book. Indeed, it is the anti-conspiracy sector of the JFK field that is the most lucrative. No conspiracy author has received the six- and seven-figure advances given to O’Reilly and James Swanson, the best selling author who has an anti-conspiracy book out now. Then there’s National Geographic‘s forthcoming movie of O’Reilly’s book, and Tom Hanks’s feature film, “Parkland,” based on Vincent Bugliosi’s anti-conspiracy book.

The reporter flogs his theory that conspiracy authors are cashing in at the expense of the facts.

The piece also has a pretty big factual error when it states, “Oswald, a hapless former Marine, was in the right place at the right time, with motive and opportunity to pull off one of the most audacious crimes in American history.”

In fact, the Warren Commission could not establish a motive for Oswald’s alleged actions. What this AP story asserts as the fact of Oswald’s motive is, in fact, undocumented and unproven.

All in all, this is an opinion piece dressed up as reportage.

The best: “Five decades later, some JFK assassination files still sealed; researchers demand transparency.

AP at its best

Rather than reporting the author’s theory, this piece, written by David Porter, provides new facts about JFK assassination files that the government is still keeping secret.

I’ve written about these files for JFK Facts in “Top 7 JFK files the CIA still keeps secret” and “Why I sued for JFK assassination records.”

As I told Porter, “This is not about conspiracy. This is about transparency.”

The first AP story is about “conspiracy” and it delivers no new facts, just the reporter’s opinions. The second AP story is about transparency and it explains we still don’t have it around JFK’s assassination. Together they illuminate the peril and promise of JFK journalism.

 

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