One Lede, Four Mistakes: ‘Standard Journalistic Procedure’

The U.S. government kills Osama Bin Laden and the Washington Examiner‘s op-ed writer Philip Klein is all over it.

Well, sort of.

Not only was it odd that a White House reporter wasn’t covering such a big story that night, but Klein proceeded to make four errors in one lead, as we told you at the time in a May 3rd post. Since then he has provided avid FishbowlDC reader and Patch journalist Marty Chase with a lengthy list of excuses for making such crucial mistakes that night. Among them: He says he was following “standard journalistic procedure.” His punching bag: Fox News, which is how he says he scraped together the slop he offered Examiner readers that night.

Klein email highlights:

*“Thank you for bringing my attention to this. I hadn’t seen it.” (We do hope Klein was aware he got the whole story wrong on one of the most important news reporting nights of the year. He did report that Bin Laden was dead and that the U.S. had the body. So that’s something.)

*“I clearly stated up front that I was merely relaying reports. And this was the standard I used in the brief post, which read: ‘Osama Bin Laden is dead, multiple news agencies are now confirming.’ According to Fox, ‘he was killed over a week ago by a U.S. bomb and it took time to check the DNA to confirm it was him. President Obama is scheduled to give a very rare Sunday evening press conference shortly.’ Three of the four errors Fishbowl highlighted came from the Fox report, but my sentence was completely accurate as written, because I properly attributed it. That is literally what Fox was reporting. That allowed readers to decide for themselves how much credence to give the report. As for the fourth error, she writes that, ‘President Obama did not schedule a presser. He read a statement.’ Yet oftentimes public figures make statements before the press and it’s referred to as a “press conference” whether or not the figure takes questions. In hindsight, it probably would have been more precise for me to write that Obama was scheduled to give a speech or make a live statement, but that’s hardly a major deal.” (There’s so much wrong here our heads are spinning. That is “literally what Fox was reporting” and readers are somehow supposed to figure out if that’s right? What, “We report, you decide?” In your mind, readers are high and dry on facts, but you attributed so it’s all above board. Please. What’s more, a “press conference” is not interchangeable for “statement.” Anyone with eyes watching TV that night saw Obama give his statement alone and not take any questions from the imaginary reporters who were not around him. Perhaps Klein could have bothered to switch on the TV.)

*“Had I simply reported the Fox news story without attribution as if it were a confirmed fact without ever following up, Fishbowl might have a legitimate beef. But I attributed everything, independently confirmed the story, and later provided readers with more details. That’s standard journalistic procedure.” (Standard journalistic procedure? The op-ed columnist gets the story horrifically wrong by “independently confirming” with Fox News and this is “standard journalistic procedure.” We’re just glad Klein’s not an ER doc.)

Morals of the story: Don’t have your op-ed writers write your news stories. And, at least in this case, don’t have your op-ed writers use Fox News to write your news stories.

See Klein’s lede after the jump…