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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 03:56 PM ET, 05/14/2012

How not to retract a falsehood

MSNBC last week did the world of journalism a good turn. It exposed as a hoax a much-circulated story that a female dentist in Poland had pulled out all the teeth of her ex-boyfriend in an act of revenge. The bogus piece of news, according to MSNBC, originated in the Daily Mail and then went all aggregational at an assortment of U.S. news sites.

All of which then found themselves in the unenviable spot of having to retract their pieces. Or “update” them, that is. Herewith a look at how those sites handled themselves once MSNBC’s investigative journalism drilled their derivative pieces — in descending order of transparency.


MSN: Now just have a look at that page. “Retraction” gets the all-cap treatment, lest anyone think for a moment that there’s something true here. Twitter is applauding.

Huffington Post: The monster aggregator doesn’t quite attain the corrective hygiene of MSN, as it leaves the headline intact. That said, we have a nice bold retraction at the top of the item. Points off for these butt-covering, earnest italics at the tail end of the retractionary note:

A handful of respectable publications ran the story before it was aggregated. Still, we strive to make sure all the articles we publish are 100-percent accurate. We regret the error.


FoxNews.com: There’ll be no awards from the National Association of Media Correction and Retraction Specialists here. For one, the site appears to have changed the headline from its original aggregational piece. And it chooses an “editor’s note” where stronger language would serve. That said, no one’s going to come away thinking there’s any merit to the original.


New York Daily News: If there’s one thing our industry cherishes, it’s an “Update.” Especially when the “Update” should clearly be labeled something else.


San Francisco Chronicle: What do you know — another “Update”! Good lord, this story is moving fast.


Yahoo! News: By this point, I’ve totally lost track of this story. Just way too many updates.


The Los Angeles Times: It fronts its retraction not with the word “retraction” but with the words “For the record.” Helpful that the paper is clarifying that something written on its site isn’t “off the record” or “on background.”


The New York Post: Still too good to check. Not even an ”update.”


The Daily Mail originated this “story” and appears to have disappeared all traces of it. Except, that is, for the URL, which states, in part: Dentist-Anna-Mackowiak-pulled-ALL-boyfriend-Marek-Olszewski-s-teeth-dumped-her.html

By  |  03:56 PM ET, 05/14/2012

Tags:  msnbc, polish dentist, hoax, daily mail, msnbc, huffington post, new york daily news, new york post, msn, yahoo, fox news

 
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