I wonder if the higher ups at the Republic are starting to regret their paper's over reaction to the Babeu story.
Journalists pride themselves--or at least used to pride themselves--on writing stories that were properly sourced and accurate. Sure, guys like me will argue that many of the stories aren't accurate and that journalists use little tricks to manipulate readers, but journalists could at least claim that these are aberrations. However, they threw all of that out the window in their Babeu feeding frenzy.
Now that we have had a couple days to reflect, let's go back to last Friday. Here's what the Republic had to work with: New Times reports that an attorney said that his client (who is unidentified) says that Chris DeRose said:
...gossip about Babeu would focus attention on Orozco, attention that could result in his deportation,
If I were at the Republic, I would take three things from the story. First, there are four levels of hearsay from DeRose to the first Republic reporter. Second. Babeu didn't make the "threat" because the first person in the chain is DeRose and third...it doesn't actually look like a threat.
Let's look at the latter point in more detail.
The 34-year-old from central Mexico charges that the sheriff's lawyer warned against mentioning the affair with Babeu. DeRose said gossip about Babeu would focus attention on Orozco, attention that could result in his deportation, Orozco says.
That looks like a warning from an attorney that illegal actions (comandeering Babeu's campaign websites) could have bad results. (If you know anything about the crime of identy theft and the Obama Administration's deportation policies, you will understand that DeRose has a point.)
Here's how the Republic covered the story on Saturday.
Article's claim: Babeu threatened ex-lover
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, a Republican rising star and a leading candidate for Congress, is facing accusations that he and his attorney threatened to deport a Mexican former lover of Babeu's if the man refused to agree to not disclose the relationship, according to explosive revelations published Friday by Phoenix New Times.
Really? Can you really get that paragraph out of the fact pattern? Certainly not.
The story has four separate bylines: Rebekah Sanders, Dan Nowicki, Ronald J. Hansen and Lindsey Collom, and it was uploaded to the web at midnight on Friday. I think that's evidence of the frenzy that was going on at the Republic.
There's a critical point when a story that originates in the alternative media crosses over to the mainstream media. That first mainstream story has to be right. That story sets the tone and lays down the original set of "facts." All of the national stories will be based on the first mainstream story, not the original alternate media story.
The New Times story is very carefully written and it takes a long time to dissect it to see what it says--and doesn't say. It's too bad that those four reporters didn't read it more carefully.