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CNN: Hormone story didn’t go through channels

Yesterday CNN.com pulled from its Web site a much-criticized story examining a study about how the voting behavior of women may hinge on whether they’re ovulating. Here’s a taste of what the piece said: “New research suggests that hormones may influence female voting choices differently, depending on whether a woman is single or in a committed relationship.”

Amid a flurry of low-hanging-fruit derision on social media, the behemoth news organization replaced the story with this editor’s note:

A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed.

After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.

We thank you for your comments and feedback.

Now, more: CNN is saying that the story violated its procedures for vetting and publishing copy. Here’s a statement:

“A post previously published in this space regarding a study about hormones and voting choices has been removed. After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN. We thank you for your comments and feedback.”

However, it’s worth noting that the post in question did not channel through the standard internal process and it was not reviewed by senior editorial staff before appearing on CNN.com. As recognized by our leadership, audience and critics, the piece did not meet the journalistic standards of CNN and should not have appeared on our site. We had an obligation to remove it.

[Update: 2:15 p.m.]: A CNN source described the newsroom’s sense of the piece, which was written by Elizabeth Landau: “The general consensus was that it was in poor taste and not something we’d put up on our website,” says the source.

When CNN gets exclusive news stories, procedure dictates that the material get reviewed by a special unit. According to the CNN source, this piece didn’t make it to this group, for whatever reasons. Nor did it get a vetting from the senior staff in CNN’s health section.

The decision to wipe the story from CNN.com has inspired an entire chat on Poynter.org and has fed as much of a PR disaster as did the underlying content. Meredith Artley, CNN’s vice president and managing editor of digital, decided that the story “should never have been on the site, and we have to right our wrongs,” in the words of the source.

And what about the poor researcher at the root of this mess? Kristina Durante of the University of Texas San Antonio protests that the research is “being taken . . . out of context.” Folks are interpreting the study as concluding that “women are irrational and led by hormones when voting.” On the contrary, she insists: Her work looked at “religiosity and attitudes when [women] are ovulating and looked at how decisions shift — single women are more politically liberal more sociallly liberal, and married women were the opposite pattern,” says Durante.

So did CNN misconstrue the research? Durante declined to criticize the network.

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