AP Reporter Canned Over Story on Deadly Missile in Poland

James LaPorta cited anonymous US official who suggested missile was Russian; it was Ukrainian
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2022 9:12 AM CST
AP Reporter Canned Over Story on Deadly Missile in Poland
Polish police officers search on Wednesday for missile wreckage near where a missile struck in the Polish village of Przewodow, near the border with Ukraine, killing two.   (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The world held its breath last week after a report suggested two missiles had been fired by Russia amid its war in Ukraine and killed two people in Poland—an incident that could have qualified as a breach against a NATO nation and possibly triggered a military response from western allies. That report, which originated from the AP, turned out to be false—the lone missile that ended up in Przewodow on Nov. 15 was one from Ukrainian forces that had simply gone off course—and now the journalist behind the article has been fired. The Washington Post identifies the reporter as 35-year-old James LaPorta, who cited an anonymous "senior US intelligence official" as informing him that it was multiple Russian missiles that had landed in Poland.

LaPorta also wrote in his story that "a second person told [the AP] that apparent Russian missiles struck a site in Poland about 15 miles from the Ukrainian border." By the next day, the AP had printed a correction, noting that "subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack." By then, however, the original alert had gone out to "thousands of news outlets around the world," per the Post, and AP sources tell the paper that, after an internal probe, it was determined to be best to pink-slip the national security journalist, whose firing was first reported by the Daily Beast on Monday night. LaPorta's dismissal appears to revolve around his use of anonymous sources, and the Post gets into the weeds on what happened in this particular case.

One point of contention, as viewed by the Post in the AP's internal correspondence, is that LaPorta apparently relayed that his anonymous source had been vetted by his senior manager. Per the analysis by the Post, although LaPorta's editor had indeed vetted that source for other articles, they hadn't done so for the missile story. An AP rep says in a statement: "When our standards are violated, we must take the steps necessary to protect the integrity of the news report." Per the Desk, the AP's rules for using anonymous sources mandate journalists using an anonymous source find at least one other to corroborate that info before publishing—unless the unnamed source is an "authoritative figure [who] provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy." LaPorta is a veteran who served in Afghanistan and worked as a freelance reporter before joining the AP in 2020. (Read more Associated Press stories.)

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