jueves, 16 de marzo de 2017

Reporter quits news site over Obama conspiracy story

The last straw for the writer was a post connecting former President Barack Obama's visit to Hawaii with a Hawaiian federal judge's ruling against President Donald Trump's newest travel ban. | AP Photo

The congressional reporter for Independent Journal Review, the conservative website whose profile has risen during the Trump administration, quit on Thursday over disagreements with the website's direction, people familiar with the situation told POLITICO.

Joe Perticone felt as though his credibility as a congressional reporter was damaged by the actions of other writers on the millennial-focused viral news site, people familiar with the situation said. Perticone removed reference to IJR from his Twitter profile on Thursday afternoon.

The last straw, they said, was a post published earlier on Thursday connecting former President Barack Obama's visit to Hawaii with a Hawaiian federal judge's ruling against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. The since-retracted post meticulously pointed out all the possible connections between Obama's visit and the judge, including that they attended Harvard at the same time, that Obama appointed the judge, and that a restaurant Obama ate at during his trip was close to the federal courthouse.

"This is not to allege the former president met with Judge Derrick Watson, but merely to point out the timing and the opportunity was there ahead of a controversial court ruling," the story states.

The theory of Obama having a connection to the federal judge's ruling was also promoted on sites with a conspiracy theory bent including InfoWars and Gateway Pundit.

Shortly after the story was posted, it received an editor's note that said: "This story has been updated to remove unnecessary speculation about the timing of the visit. We apologize for any undue conclusions that might have been drawn from the report."

By late afternoon, the story was pulled from the website. “IJR published an article that does not meet our editorial standards or represent IJR's vision or values. We have retracted the story, and we deeply regret the error," the page reads instead.

The author of the post, Kyle Becker, wrote an email to the staff of IJR apologizing for the post, saying he should have "shown restraint by not publishing the story in the first place, regardless of how interesting I thought it was personally or potentially of interest for the audience to debate," Becker wrote. (Business Insider's Oliver Darcy first posted the content of the email on Twitter).

"I should have been more responsible, and will exert utmost efforts to adhere to the highest journalistic standards I can, while taking into account audience readership pressures. It was unwarranted to fuel baseless speculation, and there are no excuses," Becker continued.

Becker also apologized for "letting the company down" when there's "a lot of national attention to us." IJR's White House correspondent, Erin McPike, was handpicked by the State Department to be the sole reporter traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia. Much of the rest of the normally staid press corps expressed anger at Wednesday's State Department briefing.

"Joe's a fantastic reporter with great instincts for covering the Hill. He'll be an asset wherever he goes,” IJR founder Alex Skatell said in a statement.

Your guide to the media circus

Several former staffers of the site have lamented what they say is the website's change in tone toward more "right-wing" content. Some suggested things changed after the departure of Michelle Jaconi, a well-known former top producer at MSNBC and CNN, who was brought on as executive editor to professionalize the journalism content. But Jaconi, whose "blue chip" background was touted by IJR in announcing her hiring, left the site within a year. Around a dozen staffers have left the site in the past year.

In response to that complaint, Skatell said on Wednesday evening, "We take our responsibility as a news organization on the board of News Media Alliance, Digital Content Next and the Trust Project seriously. I'm proud of our reporting team, past and present, and just as we've done since we were one writer and a handful of readers, we will continue to invest time and energy into strengthening our team and process."

The tension seems to lie between creating content that goes viral and becoming respected as a news outlet. The site made its name creating lighthearted videos with politicians, and stacks its site with original news stories, as well as repackaged articles that are classic internet clickbait, such as "Beautiful Teenager Found Dead on Floor of Bedroom After Her Disgusting Parents Starved Her to Death."

But the site has also scored major scoops, reporting hours before it was officially announced that Neil Gorsuch would be Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court justice. But few other media organizations picked it up or cited IJR — a reflection, perhaps, of the media establishment not yet taking the site seriously.

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