Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who found Online Spreadsheet Evidence of Chinese Gymnast's Age?

I have read several online sources that state a computer security consultant found evidence of spreadsheets on Chinese gymnasts age in Google cache and Baidu cache: Hack the Olympics! - How hacker found proof of He Kexin's age - International Olympic Committee launches probe into He Kexin's age. But this AP report claims that AP found them (AP link with the quote).

Earlier this month, the AP found registration lists previously posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Sport of China that showed both He and Yang were too young to compete. He was born Jan. 1, 1994, according to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 registration lists. Yang was born Aug. 26, 1993, according to the 2004, 2005 and 2006 registration lists. In the 2007 registration list, however, her birthday has changed to Aug. 26, 1992.

Yes, you can have someone tell you where to look and then say you found... However, this is a pretty misleading way to report the news. It seems obvious AP is reporting that they are the source of the discovery not just that they confirmed what someone else found themselves. Is AP actually the source for the discovery? If so, that is fine. If not, that is very poor reporting, it seems to me.

In trying to look into this it seems the New York Times may have reported on this before but does not state the source of their evidence, but it seems likely they had this evidence and wrote about it earlier. ABC news seems to report the same thing earlier. It is interesting none of the "mainstream press" seem to source online documents while bloggers most often provide links directly to what they quote and reference.

Other news sites are printing the AP story with that wording (including the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, ESPN, NBC Olympic site and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette - Google News finds several AP stories with that quote). Using that wording would put the credibility of their organization behind stating it in this way. If they did just confirm what was discovered by others they seem to be reducing their credibility even more - after their recent attempts to restrict legal quoting of their articles by bloggers. A news site trying to make themselves seem like the discoverers of news that in fact was discovered by someone else is really calling into question their integrity.

I do support bloggers not quoting AP stories, in general. But in this case it is specifically the AP's story that is the issue. Here is another AP story claiming AP found the documents from August 14th.

I did not find any stories, by anyone other than AP, that claims (or implies) that AP discovered this evidence.

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