Will News Organizations Revisit or Correct Levi Johnston, ‘Climategate’ Reports?

By Alex Weprin 

New information about Levi Johnston and the “Climategate” scandal have thrust both news items back into the spotlight.

Johnston, the ex-fiancee of Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol, said that some of the comments he made about the family were not true.

As Michael Calderone at Yahoo! News notes, it is unclear exactly what statements were false, but CBS News and CNN, among other networks, interviewed Johnston about his relationship with the family.


Also, an inquiry into the “Climategate” scandal cleared all of the scientists involved of wrongdoing. In late 2009, internal documents from a team of researchers at the University of East Anglia in the UK were leaked, and reportedly showed an effort to cover-up data that did not support the theory that global climate change was real.

The latest review, released today, says that the science and conclusions the research unit came to were sound, and that they were not being deceitful in their emails, despite the appearance of being so.

Both subjects have been discussed on cable news today, but by and large they have been brushed under the table and relegated to news briefs. Fox News and MSNBC covered the Johnston apology, but did not address the “Climategate” report at all. CNN covered both, but did not dwell on the subjects for long.

These two incidents raise an interesting question: both dominated their respective news cycles, taking up hours of coverage on the cable news channels and on the broadcast news programs.

Now that the original “controversies” appear to be less so, do news organizations have any obligation to go back and inform their viewers of the new developments?

If Johnston told CNN’s Larry King something untrue in his interview, does CNN have an obligation to revisit that and correct it on-air? Likewise, if a Fox News anchor (not commentator or opinion host) reported on the “Climategate” emails assuming it was a legitimate blow to climate change, should that anchor reveal the new information to their viewers?

If so, to what extent should they cover it?

Considering the hours of time spent covering the original stories, how much time should be spent correcting prior coverage?

Weigh in in the comment section.