How Not to Recover from a Reporting Blunder
Last weekend I wrote about the utter train wreck of a media chase and fan salivation that was Dwight Howard’s decision to sign with the Houston Rockets. One of the luminaries in my tale was the previously unknown to me Orange County Register reporter Janis Carr, who seemingly scooped the more well known national media chasing the story only to issue a hasty retraction.
There is no good way to spin the fact that she screwed up, but that didn’t stop Carr from trying. As a journalist, your reputation is inextricably linked with the perception of your fairness and accuracy. When either of those comes into question, the best thing to do is be open, truthful and move on. Instead, Carr decided to double down on her already retracted report and whine about how her Twitter followers were mad at her.
Carr originally tweeted, “Dwight has made his decision”, while her retraction said, “My tweet about Dwight’s announcement was premature”. She reported that there was a decision, retracted that report, and then after the Los Angeles Lakers confirmed Howard was not returning she asserted that the evidence in her initial tweet was correct:
@LangfelderNBA How did I lie. I said he had reached a decision.— janis carr (@janiscarr)
A few minutes later—after Howard had already changed his Twitter avatar to a picture of him in a Houston Rockets uniform—Carr declared that her original tweet was “sort of” right:
@LangfelderNBA He sort of did by changing his avatar— janis carr (@janiscarr)
Another few minutes later though—after Howard tweeted about joining the Houston Rockets—suddenly she isn’t only “sort of” right anymore:
Dwight, just like he said, uses Twitter: “I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me…— janis carr (@janiscarr)
Carr wants to have her cake and eat it too, and does so in a disingenuous fashion. It is bad enough to have to retract or correct a report, but it is even worse to do so, and then—only after you were proven to have been partially correct—trumpet your accuracy. A report should be the final product of a thorough search for the truth, not a parlor game to predict what somebody will do.
To top it off, a few days later Carr complained that she couldn’t please any of her twitter followers. Considering that most people follow reporters to read their, you know, reporting, I would suggest that in the future, accurately reporting information would be a good strategy to avoid pissing off followers.
@SerenaWinters I cant please any of my followers right now. All hate me— janis carr (@janiscarr)