Reuters has a reputation as a sober-minded business news wire, but the insinuations in a story today about the funding behind occupy Wall Street stirred up an outcry on the Web.
The story originally suggested that billionaire investor George Soros could be behind the Occupy Wall Street protests, sparking outcry from readers and media watchers. By evening, Reuters had posted a second story, declaring Soros “not a funder of Wall Street protests.”
The original article, headlined “Who’s behind the Wall Street protests?,” connected Soros to Occupy Wall Street through contributions made by Soros some years ago to a foundation that at one time gave money to Adbusters, the group that promoted the protests early on.
The article was met with derision around the Web. Slate’s Dave Weigel countered it by suggesting Kevin Bacon might be behind the protests. Even Reuters’s own opinion blogger Felix Salmon sharply criticized the wire service.
“In this case, there was no story, and nothing to report. Inventing a tenuous and intellectually-dishonest link between Soros and OWS might get us traffic from Matt Drudge — but that’s traffic which, frankly, we don’t particularly value or care for,” he wrote.
Compare the paragraph in the original story that had so bothered people on the Web:
Soros and the protesters deny any connection. But Reuters did find indirect financial links between Soros and Adbusters, an anti-capitalist group in Canada which started the protests with an inventive marketing campaign aimed at sparking an Arab Spring type uprising against Wall Street.
With the lead of the new story:
George Soros isn’t a financial backer of the Wall Street protests, despite speculation by critics including radio host Rush Limbaugh that the billionaire investor has helped fuel the anti-capitalist movement.
Neither story contained a correction or acknowledgment of the changes at the time of this writing.
Update: The Atlantic Wire spoke to Reuters's editor for ethics and standards Alix M. Freedman who said stories are often updated as new information comes in, and that he was not aware of any debate inside Reuters as to whether the initial reporting was too thin.
(Hat tip to T.J.)