Don't Believe The Hype: John Edwards Doesn't Suspend Campaign
At 11:43 this morning, I received an email message with this subject line: "CBSNews.com News Alert! Edwards To Suspend Campaign Due To Wife's Cancer."
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
The body of the email sourced the claim to CBS News partner The Politico. In addition to sending the email alert, CBS News made the news the lead story on the Web site, where it was also sourced to The Politico.
We now know that the report was wrong: John Edwards is staying in the presidential race despite the fact that his wife's cancer has reemerged. The Politico's Ben Smith first claimed that Edwards would drop out in a blog post at 11:06. He has now posted an apology.
According to Smith, a single, anonymous source, whom Smith has known for years and whom he trusts, told him that Edwards was "suspending his campaign" this morning.
"…with less than an hour before Edwards was to announce, I unwisely wrote the item without getting a second source," wrote Smith. "When the campaign pushed back harder than I'd expected, I added that information to the original item, but that doesn't undo the damage. My apologies to our readers for passing on bad information."
I asked CBSNews.com Senior Political Editor (and former Public Eye editor) Vaughn Ververs about CBS News' handling of the story.
"We sourced the story correctly to Politico reporting," said Ververs. "But, while The Politico is an editorial partner of CBSNews.com, we should not have run breaking news of this nature that had not been independently verified by CBS News and will be careful not do so in the future."
The larger question here is this: Why rush out a story like this at all, especially as the press conference was less than an hour away? Is the bump in traffic really worth risking not getting it right?
"Something that's so basic but is often forgotten in the rush of working on a story - journalists often feel like 'I've gotta go with what I've got,'" Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, told me in an earlier interview. "But no one ever benefited themselves by going with something that turned out to be wrong."