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Posted by on Jul 7, 2007 in Media, Politics | 13 comments

Capitol Hill Blue Retracts Controversial Negative Ron Paul Piece

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They say that journalism is “instant history.” And if journalism is instant history, then blogging is instant history coupled with gut reactions.

And if “instant history” must be revised and/or retracted from time to time, just imagine the complications when it comes to blog-like gut reactions.

And if you can’t imagine it read THIS POST which discusses Capitol Hill Blue‘s retraction of a highly controversial post blasting Republican “maverick” Ron Paul.

In fact, Capitol Hill Blue top Editor Doug Thompson has emailed us that he didn’t know this piece had been posted by an overzealous editor, he subsequently had that editor move in a new direction to spend more time with his family (not the words he used) and he has since apologized to Capitol Hill Blue‘s readers (see below) in a post on his site.

But first, some background on a fascinating New Media story, in case you’re coming in late:

Yesterday we ran THIS POST on GOPer Ron Paul having more cash on hand than Arizona Senator John McCain — who you may see one day soon standing on a street corner asking: “Do you have any change?” McCain has been walking a tightrope for more than a year and has fallen off. He’ll hit the ground any second now…

And Paul? Our post noted all the big bucks Paul is collecting from little contributors on the Internet and elsewhere.

Paul is also getting such boffo ratings on videos related to him on You Tube that any day now NBC will probably sign him to his own show.

Or maybe CBS will sign him to replace Katie Couric.

In our post, we used an angry quote from Capitol Hill Blue that was the kind of quote we journalistic types love to use after running positive info about someone because it shows that not every person on the face of the earth is in X person’s fan club. I call it the “counter quote.” In that quote we used, among other things the Capitol Hill Blue writer accused Ron Paul of anti-Semitism. It would be clear to even a head of lettuce on a shelf at Ralph’s Grocery Store in San Diego that the writer of the CHB piece had a problem with Paul.

The charge of anti-Semitism (a bogus issue to Paul’s supporters) has been discussed before on the Internet. (You can sift through the various articles yourself).

But the bottom line is that Capitol Hill Blue has now retracted that post and several others that were deemed much too biased. Here’s some of what Thompson wrote:

Because I went without sleep for most of last weekend when we moved the site to new servers, I took a break from editing Blue during the 4th of July week (although I did write a couple of columns).

It seems that three articles were posted about the Ron Paul campaign that were not what I would have written (or approved) and some felt were my work. One of our editors incorrectly assumed that my lack of support for Ron Paul meant he could declare open season on that candidate. He was wrong and I apologize for his misuse of this web site. The articles posted have been removed as have been my earlier columns which apparently led to the conclusion that we were singling out the Paul campaign for special attention.

Longtime readers of this site know I always sign anything that I write and if it doesn’t have my name on it, I didn’t write it. Just because I don’t like a particular candidate or their past or positions is no excuse to use this web site to declare war on that candidate and apply different standards on how we cover that campaign.

A lot of volunteers put in a lot of time and effort helping keep Blue up and running and I sometimes have to step in and bring things back under control. I admire their enthusiasm even if I have to sometimes curb it.

Be sure to read his entire post.

In my newspaper career, I saw “the system” break down on newspapers where editors let something slip by and to their horror saw it in the paper the next day. Or they only later realized it was totally wrong and had to run a retraction. Or it was so inaccurate they had to do a follow up piece that disguised what really was a retraction.

Weblogs and internet news outlets are particularly vulnerable to slips, since it’s not a matter of writing and preparing a piece and waiting a day or a few hours until it’s in print. All someone has to do is to press a button — and it’s out there…in a second.

Weblogs and weblog-like news sites don’t always function like newspapers where an all-knowing editor scrutinizes each golden word. You assume your associates are as responsible as a) you first assumed yourself b) they present themselves to be.

But remember the old cliche that “Assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”

And because weblogs and weblog-like news sites DO offer news coupled with analysis and opinion, the danger for error is even greater if people throw out allegations that aren’t accurate or are highly controversial but really reflect them LASHING OUT at someone (a problem on weblogs in both posts and comments).

Labels like “anti-Semitic…racist…liar…cowards…racist” or “Amway salesman” are easy to throw around (UH, OH…here come all the emails demanding we praise Amway: OK we have used and loved your toilet paper and soap).

But they’re too easy to throw around.

The lesson for journalists, bloggers and people in comments is that it’s best to spell out what you don’t like about someone giving specific examples.

If you detail you don’t like such and such people can then debate you on the specifics — on the ISSUES and not on personal dislike.

Just writing something that shows you don’t like someone and are going after them doesn’t change minds or influence readers who seek to learn more (rather than read what they already believe).

Labels are fun, unless someone calls you on it and insists you prove that the label is true. And sometimes it isn’t always a matter of black and white but sometimes it involves that dreaded quality called…nuance.

And then it’s in the eye — and political biases — of each worked-up beholder.

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