Monday, June 7, 2010

Missoulian's inaccurate blog post about blog accuracy

Posted By on Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 3:45 PM

Missoulian editor Sherry Devlin blogged over the weekend about John Wooden (RIP), news organizations being inaccurate in a rush to report the news and, oh look, the Indy. Cool! The Missoulian never writes about us.

Specifically, Devlin takes issue with news organizations that rushed to eulogize Wooden on Thursday night, before the 99-year-old coaching legend died on Friday. She continues:

I see examples of such a rush to print every day, locally and in the larger world. Just this past week, the Missoula Independent went online with news that the Macy’s building had been sold to the University of Montana. Not true. UM has toured the building, is looking at possibilities associated with the building’s potential purchase and use, but has neither decided to buy the building nor bought the building.

One problem: We never reported that. Our blog post headline raised the question, "UM to buy Macy's building?" We also wrote, referencing Missoula City Councilman Bob Jaffe's listserv, that "UM is evaluating the possibility of using the historic structure to expand UM's Montana Museum of Art and Culture." We never reported the building was sold. We then spoke with Jim Foley at UM, who confirmed, "We have talked very briefly with the agents who are listed to sell it." If anything, we're guilty of letting a squishy sentence lead the blog post, but a weak sentence hardly constitutes a factual error or otherwise asserts the done deal Devlin mistakes.

Anyway, I posted a response to Devlin's blog this morning on the Missoulian's site, but it has yet to appear online. That was more than six hours ago. I called Devlin this afternoon to see when I could expect my response to appear online, as well as to ask what the deal was with her original post. She said the Indy's Twitter feed reported the sale. Again, not true. I explained our Twitter feed is generated directly from our blog, which never reported any such thing. Devlin said this was the first she'd heard of a problem, and said she'd take down the reference to the Indy immediately. I asked whether my response to her blog post or a correction would appear, and she reiterated that she took down any mention of the Indy, and left it at that. (A screen grab of her original post can be seen below.)

Devlin ends her original post with a righteous rant about the "great potential, and power" of the interwebs — "But only if news outlets hold fast to their journalistic principles of accuracy — of verifying stories before they are put into publication, be that publication on the Web or in print or over the airwaves. You as consumers should demand nothing less. We as journalists should commit ourselves to nothing less."

Right on! We couldn't agree more. As a consumer and journalist, I only wish Devlin had taken care to ensure her call for accuracy hit the mark.


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