Lance Armstrong Story Reported Differently by French and American News Agencies

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John Keker, the founding partner of the San Francisco law firm Keker and Van Nest, recently filed a motion in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of his client Lance Armstrong. All three English-language news agencies all reported the story. The Associated Press (AP), the Agence France-Press (AFP) and Reuters Group (Reuters) usually report similar accounts of major news stories.

A casual reader of the recent Lance Armstrong story would come away with a very different perspective depending on which wire story they read. The court filing was characterized as an attack on the freedom of the press according to one account whereas other accounts characterized the motion as an attack on federal government employees for violating grand jury secrecy laws.

The Agence France-Press headline, “Armstrong Wants Secret Probe of Leaks” seemed to suggest the news media was the target of the motion:

Former American cycling star Lance Armstrong has accused a group of US media giants of reporting grand jury information which had allegedly been illegally leaked.

Armstrong’s legal team filed a notice of violations in an American federal court last Wednesday, targeting both the government investigators and The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and others for publishing leaked information between May 2010 until last month about a grand jury probe into whether he used performance-enhancing drugs.

The Associated Press headline, “Lance Armstrong Attorneys Allege Government Leaks” clearly states the government is the target of the motion:

Lance Armstrong’s attorneys say illegal government leaks of grand jury information have sullied the cyclist’s reputation, and have asked a court to order federal agents to discuss their contacts with the media.

In a 20-page notice of alleged violations filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, lawyers for the seven-time Tour de France winner cited more than a dozen articles in many media outlets from May 2010 through last month about an ongoing grand jury investigation into whether Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs in violation of U.S. law.

Similarly, the Reuters headline “Lance Armstrong Goes to Court Over U.S. Doping Probe Leaks” focuses on those who are leaking the grand jury testimony:

The legal team for cycling superstar Lance Armstrong, who is under federal investigation for doping, has asked a U.S. judge to probe apparent leaks of secret grand jury proceedings examining the sport.

The Agence France-Presse news story seems to show a bias against Lance Armstrong. Not only does the story characterize the court motion as an attack on the free press but even the headline suggests that Armstrong is up to something quite nefarious by calling for a “secret probe”. AFP is a French news agency based in Paris. The French cycling public and French press have never been particularly enamored by Armstrong. The press, in particular, has always been the quickest to jump on any doping-related links to Armstrong.

The Associated Press is an American news agency and Reuters is a British news agency based in London. Is it any surprise that AFP put a little French twist on the Lance Armstrong story?


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