Janet Cooke, Is That You?
In April of 2009, Andrew Alexander, then the Washington Post's ombudsman, published an article titled, "The Post Whittles Down Its Corrections Backlog," implying that it's quite a stack of corrections he's working on there!
Yesterday, the Politico reported that the "Washington Post may cut its ombudsman." Evidently the strain of finishing off all of those 2008-2009-era corrections got to Patrick Pexton, Alexander's successor. But we can add a new one to the list: "Washington Post falls for hoax report that Sarah Palin will work for al-Jazeera," John Hayward writes today at Human Events:
Suzi Parker at the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday morning, “The Sarah Palin Story is a cautionary tale about what can happen when politics and celebrity meet.”
There follow several hundred words of rambling non-news about how Palin is “trying to find ways to stay relevant while her 15 minutes faces into the political history books,” after parting ways with Fox News. Parker artfully juxtaposes some factoids about Palin’s popularity in Alaska, and unsupported speculation that she’s been ruined by exposure to reality TV, with an account of Palin’s attendance at the memorial for murdered Navy SEAL Chris Kyle – the implication being that Palin only attended the service to draw attention to herself.
But the marquee element of Parker’s post – the entire reason she wrote the silly, contemptuous piece – was the revelation that Palin would become a contributor for the TV network al-Jazeera bought from al-Gore. Supposedly Palin hoped to use her new perch at al-Jazeera to “reach millions of devoutly religious people.”
It’s a blockbuster revelation that turned out to be based entirely on a hoax… which Parker fell for hook, line, and sinker, apparently making no effort whatsoever to substantiate it, not even through the minimal practice of searching for a single corroborating source online. Parker’s sole source was an obvious parody site, the Daily Currant. She probably didn’t even bother to visit the site, instead building her story around a cut-and-paste of something she received via social media. At the time of this writing, the top story on the Daily Currant is “Catholic Church Considering Jerry Sandusky as Next Pope.”
At Breitbart.com's Conversation group blog, Iowahawk notes that -- of course -- the correction at the WaPo was merely an opportunity for more snark:
I guess Suzi's Pulitzer is on hold for the moment, since the story came from a third-rate satire site. So the Post has now updated the scoop with a new title: "Sarah Palin Tries to Stay Relevant", with a new lede:CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin planned to contribute to the Al Jazeera America news network.
Maybe a more accurate correction would have added "because we are psychologically incapable of disbelieving about any story the voices in our head tell us about Sarah Palin."
But then, it's not like anyone trusts the Washington Post to be accurate these days. Fake, yes. But accurate?