New York Post Made A Big Mistake; Mediaite, Others Made It Worse

The New York Post made a big mistake Sunday by publishing a Facebook chat “interview” with an imposter masquerading as the brother of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza. Mediaite made it worse, first hyping the report with zero skepticism, then keeping its story hyping the original NYP report up hours after the tabloid’s update with a family spokesman denying Ryan Lanza gave the interview or set up a tribute page for his brother and slain mother on Facebook.

The post was live hours after the New York Post updated its story with the spokesman's claim of a hoax.

The Mediaite version was live hours after the New York Post updated its story with the spokesman’s claim of a hoax.

When the site finally updated, it left a bad headline in place — only striking through Lanza’s name and adding a note at the top repeating the NYP statement. Someone apparently deleted an earlier tweet touting the initial Mediaite version — a tweet I did in reply is left but the original no longer shows up. Unlike the NYP, Mediaite didn’t tweet an update.

Mediaite's Lanza update

Mediaite wasn’t alone in running with a spurious story that never should have been published. Gawker replaced its post with a brief update but left up the comments about it — including those chiding it for believing the NYP at all. Yahoo News blew it by posting the story, then putting the “update” at the bottom. Gothamist did a write through with the update but the url still heralds the mistake of playing follow the leader with the Post. Huffington Post is the only one I’ve seen so far to run an editor’s note explaining the situation. No apology.

Admitting to a hoax without apologizing.

Admitting to a hoax without apologizing.

For all of its faults, starting with ignoring a field of red Facebook flags, when the Post was notified, the headline was changed and the update was tweeted. It would have been even better to run a formal correction and/or admission of error. Instead, the tabloid left a lot of the details for the Washington Post to fill in.

As for the lemmings that followed the NYP thinking that attribition to another media outlet offers some kind of pass or absolution in case a story is wrong, it doesn’t.