The Washington Post

Montana paper commits Obama-birther gaffe

(Charles Dharapak/AP) brings more details on the episode in which the Helena (Mont.) Independent Record printed a story saying that President Obama “allegedly” was born in Hawaii. The newspaper added the loaded “allegedly” to an Associated Press (AP) story that stated straight-up that the president was born in Hawaii.

Turns out the “allegedly” comes courtesy of some Independent Record copy editor(s) who were skewering their rightward-tilting boss, Randy Rickman, according to the Romenesko report.

Never, ever joke around with pre-publication stuff. It’s bound to make it into print.

An unforgivable and frivolous mistake of this sort demands only the most professional level of crisis management by the newsroom’s leaders, which happened. The Independent Record:

*Investigated the incident;

*Published an editor’s note taking blame for the mistake and explaining the origins of the embarrassment; and

*Disciplined those responsible for it.

Among those happy with the paper’s reaction was the AP: “It was widely noticed and no doubt appreciated here at the AP that the editor expressed his disappointment in the fact that the word ‘allegedly’ was inserted in there,” says AP spokesman Paul Colford.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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