CNN acknowledges fault in Sanjay Gupta operation story
After being called to task for inaccurate reporting by an international news organization, CNN on Thursday corrected its account of an operation performed in earthquake-ravaged Nepal by its chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta.
According to the correction, which was appended Thursday to a tale of the operation written by CNN digital producer Tim Hume, the network misidentified which patient Gupta operated on:
An earlier version of this story, first published April 27, 2015, incorrectly identified the patient that Dr. Sanjay Gupta operated on after the Nepal earthquake. We regret the error. After investigating the details of the surgery, we confirmed Dr. Gupta performed brain surgery on Sandhya Chalise, as reported in the original version of this story. We have updated the story below with the correct information.
As the correction notes, Hume's story initially contained the correct identity of the patient, 14-year-old Sandhya Chalise, but that detail was changed in a subsequent version of the story.
CNN's correction comes 10 days after the Global Press Journal, a San Francisco-based news service dedicated to covering international news, called the network's reporting into question. The Global Press Journal's reporting prompted many other news outlets, including Poynter, NPR and The Washington Post to question the network's story.
The Global Press Journal began inquiring into CNN's account after local sources told the news organization that the network erroneously reported that Gupta, a neurosurgeon-turned-journalist, operated on 8-year-old Salina Dahal when in fact he operated on Chalise. The outlet spent weeks verifying that claim and finally published its account earlier this month.
In a subsequent interview with NPR's David Folkenflik, Gupta attributed the possibility of error to the chaos of post-disaster Nepal, which had just weathered a 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
"I don't like to make mistakes," Gupta told Folkenflik. "Sometimes you are beholden to other people for information, or you are verifying details in other ways. It gives me pause as a doctor. It gives me pause as a journalist."
Both Gupta and CNN stopped short of admitting error immediately after the story published, saying that additional reporting had to be done to establish the true identity of his patient.
But a network source did provide a possible accounting of the mistake to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, who wrote about the factual dispute after the Global Press Journal's story broke.
According to Wemple's source, the discrepancy arose from collaboration between Hume and Gupta, who reported different accounts of the surgery for television and CNN's website:
After the surgery, Gupta leaves the scene to film a live shot in which he speaks of having performed surgery on Salina. Following that interview, Hume consults with Gupta to get some details on the procedure — but he doesn’t check with Gupta on who the patient was because he doesn’t believe that’s a fact in contention. He files the story and later learns from CNN staff in Atlanta that there’s a discrepancy between the televised material and Hume’s online piece. They collectively discuss the matter, with Gupta insisting that he operated on the eight-year-old. Deference goes to the doctor. CNN.com adjusts its story in conformity with Gupta’s on-air version.