Publishing an unverified fact is an opportunity to challenge traditional notions of power as it relates to truth gatekeepers. It is not, however, an excuse for sloppy journalism.
The danger of publishing unverified information made headlines recently, after CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers published a story that claimed Mitt Romney’s former employer, Bain & Company, was a consultant during the auto company bailouts overseen by the Obama Administration.
The story was pulled after Bain’s PR president challenged the connection, claiming it was incorrect and demanding a retraction, to which CNBC promptly abided. But then it was learned that the report was correct, and that the correction was wrong, as Craig Silverman notes on Poynter.com. So Javers wrote another story, but not before the webomino effect ravaged the blogosphere, claiming CNBC didn’t operate by basic journalistic principles of fact verification.
Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik was one of the more outspoken critics, Silverman notes. Even after the original story was proven correct, many remained convinced that CNBC's failure to properly verify the fact was its cardinal sin.
Within the firestorm of criticism, there is an interesting dichotomy: What if Javers had contacted Bain & Company successfully before he wrote the first story, but the company lied to him about the connection, as they obviously did in their retaliation to his story?