Last week in “What is the difference between a journalist and a blogger, The Union Publisher Jim Hemig was touting the newsroom’s “reliable sources,” credibility and “providing balance.”
At around the same time, I pointed out the egregious reporting error from Hemig’s own newsroom when it republished what many journalists would consider a libelous statement concerning the Elections Office.
The Union republished a press release from ASA on its website that alleged “the ACLU is investigating whether actions taken by the County rise to the level of election tampering.”
I confirmed that there was no such investigation, but The Union did not. This false statement also was reported on tea-party supporter Barry Pruett’s political blog. (Barry lost to Diaz in a race for clerk-recorder).
Even after I pointed this out and the ASA backed off its false claim, the Union’s article remained posted online (to my astonishment). Pruett drew lines through the false statement on his blog and rewrote the headline, substituting the word “foot dragging” for “tampering” (though the original reference “Gregory Diaz and election tampering” still shows up in the URL of his post, http://barrypruett.blogspot.com/2014/04/gregory-diaz-and-election-tampering.html) and in a Google search. (You can’t “erase” that). Pruett has not apologized to Diaz, either, at least to my knowledge.
Now, after receiving notice from the Elections Office, The Union has issued a major retraction written by Editor Brian Hamilton. The Union said it regrets the “apparent false allegation was posted at TheUnion.com.” It also apologized to the “Nevada County Elections Office and to Nevada County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Gergory Diaz, for our failure to confirm the allegation prior to publishing the news release at TheUnion.com, which inaccurately called into question the integrity of the county elections office with the false claim.”
The news release containing the false information finally has been removed from TheUnion.com’s website, at least according to The Union. (But it still appears in a Google search).
Under the California retraction statute, according to the Digital Media Law project:
A plaintiff has twenty days after discovering an allegedly libelous statement to serve a request for retraction;
The request must be in writing and must specify the statements claimed to be libelous and demand that they be corrected; and
Once the publisher receives the retraction request, it has three weeks to publish a retraction in a manner that is “substantially as conspicuous” as the original published statements.
If you comply with these procedures after receiving a retraction request (or the plaintiff fails to ask for a retraction as required under the statute) and you are found to be liable for defamation, the plaintiff’s ability to recover damages from you will be limited.
Here’s how the information appears in a Google search: