Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Politico errors on Edwards, then apologizes

Ah, anonymous sources...

Earlier this morning, The Politico published a story that John Edwards would "suspend" his campaign due to a recurrence in his wife's cancer. The Politico's article cited an anonymous source. I thought at the time that Edwards was making a bold and surprising move, and I was impressed.

As it turns out, Edwards will do just the opposite, as CBS reports. Despite his wife's illness, Edwards will continue his campaign.

Since I had read the original AP report that cited the Politico, I was not surprised to read "Getting It Wrong" a few hours later by Ben Smith, the author of the original Politico article. As it happens, the original false story was dugg by a number of people on

Smith quickly fessed up to:

1) his use of an anonymous source, and

2) his failure to verify the leak through a second source.

It was good of him to apologize, but shoddy journalism nonetheless. Ben Smith's correction:

Getting it Wrong

A single, confident source close to John Edwards told me this morning that Edwards was "suspending his campaign," and I posted it to the blog at 11:06 this morning.

My source, and I, were wrong.

The source, whose anonymity I agreed to respect, spoke of the kind of grim prognosis Elizabeth Edwards herself just described hearing before a second round of tests came back. I trusted the source, somebody I've known for several years, and who has always been reliable.

And with less than an hour before Edwards was to announce, I unwisely wrote the item without getting a second source.

When the campaign pushed back harder than I'd expected, I added that information to the original item, but that doesn't undo the damage.

My apologies to our readers for passing on bad information.

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