August 1979 Letter to H.L. Stevenson

The 'Report on Accuracy and The Associated Press' contained this Aug. 1, 1979, letter from Ed DiPietro to H.L. Stevenson:

Columbus, Ohio
August 1, 1979
Mr. H.L. Stevenson
New York

Dear Steve:

The article on UPI in the July 11 edition of the Wall Street Journal quoted an editor of the Minneapolis Tribune as saying UPI "uses inflated numbers in disasters to grab headlines."

We've had two major stories in Ohio in the past week which shows just the opposite.

Last weekend there was some violence preceeding a rock concert in Cleveland and there were some arrests. The AP carried stories Saturday night and, I believe, on Sunday saying there were 75 arrests.

We could only confirm 16 arrests Saturday night, which we reported. On Sunday, I had one of our people check the police blotter and we came up with 31 at that time, which we reported. We were right on the money.

Yesterday, fire at the Holiday Inn motel in Cambridge, Ohio, killed nine people. AP shot out with a death toll figure of 20, then backed off to 10 and never budged from that figure, which was still wrong. The 20 deaths AP reported caused Station WBNS in Columbus (owned by the Columbus Dispatch) to go on the air with a disclaimer, apologizing for the erroneous report, blaming it on AP reporting.

Inflate figures? Indeed.

Best regards,

Ed DiPietro


P.S. And let's not forget the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire a few years back when AP said the death toll likely would reach 400. That made a lot of headllines. But our count was accurate throughout and when it was over the AP was off by about 240 bodies.