There are lots of things that should be done in secret — but making an example of someone is not one of them. The Associated Press got that wrong today when they reportedly fired a reporter and editor over a recent badly mangled story.
At issue was a story we blogged about on October 10th when AP erroneously reported that VA gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe appeared to have lied to federal investigators.
AP based their story on some documents which said that a person with the initials “T.M.” may have lied — and they jumped to the conclusion that T.M = Terry McAuliffe. Wrong guy. Oops.
AP almost immediately retracted the story and veteran journalist Bob Lewis, who wrote it, tweeted that the mistake was his and he took responsibility for it.
Apparently AP agreed. arious news organizations today report that AP has fired Lewis and also canned Dena Potter, an editor who handled news for Virginia and West Virginia.
The Huffington Post reports that they contacted Potter — who referred them to an AP spokesman — WHO DECLINED TO COMMENT citing their policy of not discussing personnel matters. Hello?
The whole point of firing someone for an enormous mistake is to restore public confidence in your institution and to send a signal to other employees that egregious errors will not be tolerated.
Lewis is, by all accounts, a very experienced and capable journalist. But AP does neither him nor Potter any favors by giving them the ax on background. More importantly — they do their organization and journalism in general no favors by being anything less than completely transparent.