A CNN spokesperson confirms that Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist sent the following memo to staffers last night in the wake of the network’s Supreme screwup. Important points about the missive:
1) It promises an internal probe of the matter. Good idea.
2) It asserts ownership of the disaster. Another good idea.
3) It’s painstaking — Feist cites 10:20 a.m. as the pivot point from bad coverage to good coverage. Hey, if you’re a manager, you have to find the positive.
Have a look:
From: Feist, Sam
Sent: Thu 6/28/2012 7:16 PM
To: *CNN DC Bureau (TBS)
Subject: Today’s Supreme Court Decision
I wanted to send a quick note about our reporting of the Supreme Court decision this morning.
As you all know by now, our initial reporting of the decision turned out to be wrong. Despite the best of intentions, we told our viewers and our online readers that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act had been struck down when, in fact, it had not.
Today we failed to adhere to our own standard, namely it’s better to be right than to be first. We take mistakes seriously, especially mistakes on such important stories. We are looking into exactly what happened and we will learn from it.
When we realized what happened, we owned up to the mistake, corrected on air, corrected on line, and corrected in social media. Our organization has also been entirely transparent about what happened and why. I wanted to make sure that you have seen CNN’s statement which is linked here: http://on.cnn.com/ODkjjT
While this may be of little solace, it is worth noting that our coverage after 10:20am was very strong. We covered the decision, the impact on the country, the impact on the presidential campaign, and the fallout. We covered it with our top reporters and analysts, with doctors, political leaders, attorneys, and most important — with ordinary citizens.
And we covered today’s Contempt of Congress proceedings exceedingly well.
Today was a historic day in Washington. We have much to be proud of but also some important lessons to reflect on.
Thanks for everything you do.
Via Poynter comes another memo, one that Meredith Artley, vice president and managing editor of CNN Digital, sent yesterday afternoon to her colleagues. The brief missive is a phenomenal piece of motivational craftsmanship. Buck up, it says, in effect.
Yet it does add a small and innocuous distortion to the record, and it’s bolded below:
This morning, starting at 10.08, we erroneously reported that the individual mandate was struck down by the Supreme Court. We published this across digital platforms, via email and on @cnnbrk. We reported it on our air.
We got it wrong and we take that very seriously.
We are actively discussing this mistake, analyzing and learning from it.
And we will carry on.
Just look at our sites at this very moment — we have crafted a collection of outstanding stories that millions of people are reading and watching right now.
There are a lot of tweets, posts and pieces out there about our mistake. And more will come. Stay strong. This is the organization that has exposed and righted wrongs, that has brought knowledge and freedom to people worldwide. We made a mistake, as people and organizations sometimes do, and we swiftly and clearly corrected it.
We are not the story. The story is the story.
I want to sincerely thank everyone involved in the correction process for their focused effort and for their calm and clear heads.
For at least one day, CNN, you were the story — on a day when competition for that honor was intense. And if you don’t believe it, I’ll send the links to prove it.
Basta de quibbles. What unites these two memos is a sentiment that emphasizes learning from a mistake and moving forward.
The latter, of course, cannot take place without the former. And that’s where Fox News enters the picture. It made the same exact mistake as CNN, but instead of acknowledging as much, it beat its chest: “Fox reported the facts, as they came in,” said the network, among other derriere-covering cop-outs. All’s well here, in other words: No need to correct the record, no need to learn, no need to improve.