Tuesday, April 05, 2005
GOP talking points?: There was quite a bit of uproar as the Congress acted to give the federal courts jurisdiction in the Terri Schiavo case when a "GOP talking points memo" was allegedly distributed on the Senate floor touting political benefits to be gained from supporting the legislation. You can find a plethora of links on the subject here, but basically there is no evidence that the memo in question was created by anyone in the Republican party, nor is there any evidence that anyone in the GOP leadership ever saw the memo.
The two big media outlets that first reported this story were ABC News and The Washington Post. Both have distanced themselves from the claim that the GOP was actually behind the memo -- even though the ABCNews.com head referred to it as a GOP memo. The Washington Post pointed out that they had never explicitly said the memo originated with Republicans -- except that an early version of the story that went out over the wires did.
The Post's Howard Kurtz updates the story in a Sunday piece.
The flap about a Washington Post report on an unsigned strategy memo in the Terri Schiavo case, which the paper said was "distributed to Republican senators," isn't going away.
It turns out that The Post's news service put out an early version of the March 20 story -- published by numerous other papers -- that said the talking points, which touted the Schiavo case as a political opportunity, were "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." GOP congressional leaders say they never saw the document, whose author remains unknown. Post reporter Mike Allen, who was unaware the news service had distributed the earlier version, said last week that the paper was careful not to say it was "a Republican memo."
Kate Carlisle, the news service's managing editor, says Allen's report was sent out at 9:07 the night before and "we weren't notified that changes had been made to the story after we got it." Despite criticism from bloggers, and Allen's request for a correction, Carlisle said no correction was warranted. Late Friday, the news service sent out an "advisory" saying: "The version of the article published by the paper did not specify the authorship and noted that the memo was unsigned. The authorship remains unknown." The advisory did not retract the assertion that "party leaders" had given out the memo. [emphasis added]
The Columbia Journalism Review gives out "Darts" for bad journalistic practices -- and Carlisle should get one. When the reporter for the story says a mistake has been made -- beneath his byline -- then you ought to correct the thing.
*UPDATE* Author of the memo has been found. See this post for details.