NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – After a Tennessee representative filed to ‘reprimand’ The Associated Press (AP) over an article published in 2021, AP executives and journalistic figures took to Twitter to express their support for the reporters behind the piece.
“A career first,” Kat Stafford, one of several authors of the piece said Saturday. “A Republican state legislator in Tennessee introduced a resolution Thursday in response to our AP investigation of racism in the U.S. military. He accused us of ‘incendiary journalism’ & wants the legislature to ‘reprimand the AP.’ We stand by our reporting.”
Tennessee Representative Bud Hulsey (R – Kingsport) listed multiple concerns throughout the resolution, stating that the article’s investigation resulted in “an insult to the brave men and women who combat racism and discrimination at home and around the globe.”
The accusation of “yellow journalism” was met by defense from the reporters alongside AP administration. Stafford said work spanned nearly a year while the team of reporters compiled interviews, reviewed documents and submitted Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The term “yellow journalism” arose in the late 19th century to describe sensationalized journalism intended to drive sales, and was originally named after comic character “Yellow Kid” published in the competing New York World and New York Journal according to the Department of State’s Office of the Historian. In a modern setting, the term has been used to describe sensational, poorly-researched or false publications.
“Indeed – We stand by our reporting,” AP Executive Editor Julie Pace said in response to Stafford’s thread on Sunday. “And our reporters.”
WJHL staff reached out to AP Media Relations Director Lauren Easton for further comment on the matter, and Easton echoed Pace’s sentiment without further comment. WJHL staff reached out to Rep. Hulsey’s office as well for a statement, but have received no response to date.
Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), expressed the organization’s support of Stafford and AP News. Rebecca Aguilar, president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), said the organization also stood with Stafford and called the piece “outstanding.”
“We cannot allow politicians to stop journalists from exposing the truth,” Augilar wrote. “We owe it to the public.”
The resolution, filed Jan. 22, calls on both houses of Tennessee’s legislature to ‘reprimand’ The Associated Press for the article for “engaging in the lowest form of incendiary journalism” and attempting to “identify a problem that does not exist.”
Stafford’s AP article cites a number of statistics regarding racism and discrimination within the armed forces, including the all-branch discrimination report total of over 750 that Rep. Hulsey said “makes the opposite case that racism in the US Military is uncommon and not a large-scale problem.” Among the research is a set of surveys given to American sailors aboard aircraft carriers in which the article says 1 in 5 sailors witnessed racial discrimination and nearly a third reported racial jokes and slurs.
Within Tennessee Code, a “reprimand” can mean multiple things. For judges, formal reprimands may be used in discipline proceedings in both private and public to document misbehavior, warrant sanctions or support an official’s removal.
For lawmakers at several levels of government, a reprimand by other body members can serve a public rebuke with light formal impact. WJHL staff have not been able to find a previous instance of Tennessee legislature reprimanding news organizations, individual writers or other individuals outside of TN code.