ABC News still waiting to hear from Tony Scott’s family before addressing brain cancer report

Poynter.org | ABC News | Los Angeles Times
ABC News still hasn’t confirmed whether Tony Scott had inoperable brain cancer, despite reporting that he did and then acknowledging doubts about the accuracy of its initial single-sourced report.

Monday night, ABC said its original report appeared doubtful after learning that Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter had told ABC News station KABC that Scott’s family didn’t know he had brain cancer. Since then, ABC News has been waiting to hear back from Scott’s family or a family spokesperson to determine whether it needs to issue a retraction.

“ABC has continued to reach out to the family over the past few days to directly confirm the coroner’s statement and have not received a response to-date,” ABC News spokesperson David Ford said by phone. “ABC has published the facts as they are known today and when additional facts are known we will update our reporting accordingly. As previously stated, if incorrect information was reported by ABC News we will issue a full retraction and apology.”

On Monday, several news sites picked up on ABC’s report about Scott having brain cancer. After learning that the report may have been inaccurate, news outlets criticized ABC News and pointed out that the network incorrectly reported last month that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes had ties to the tea party. At the time, ABC News President Ben Sherwood said the network would take steps to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future but didn’t publicly say what those steps would be, or when they’d be taken.

It’s understandable that ABC News would want to speak directly with Scott’s family to determine whether its report was inaccurate. But the family may not respond, and the network can’t wait forever. At the very least, ABC News owes its audience an update that explains what it does and doesn’t know, and how it plans to proceed.

A private memorial service will be held for Scott this weekend, followed by a public event sometime after Labor Day.

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