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A Reuters story about Occupy Wall Street is drawing widespread criticism — first for its unsubstantiated attempt to connect liberal billionaire George Soros to the protests, then for a lack of transparency as it was corrected. As it became clear that the original story relied on unsourced speculation, indirect financial ties and baseless assertions by Rush Limbaugh, Reuters reversed course. The difference in the stories is captured in the headlines:
- “Who’s behind the Wall Street protests?”
- “Soros: Not a funder of Wall Street protests”
Now two different stories share the second headline. The second story carries a note that says, “Recasts with comment from Soros aide, adds new details to clarify. The original version can be found here.” Foster Kamer describes the reversal: “So: Reuters changed the story. Not ‘corrected,’ or ‘published a rebuttal to the original reporting,’ but ‘changed the story.’ ”
According to Adam Clark Estes, the editor on the story said she may have been partly to blame because she made a mistake with the content management system. It’s not clear whether the mistake was in prematurely publishing the first story or publishing a second story separately. But Reuters’ editor for ethics & standards said update stories like this are pretty common.
Criticism came from within the organization, too. Jim Impoco, executive editor of Thomson Reuters Digital, responded, “That’s putting it kindly” when Jay Rosen tweeted that the original story was “pathetic.” Reuters opinion blogger Felix Salmon said there was “no real substance” to the reporting, which suggested that Soros and the protesters had similar ideology and that there was a link between Soros and Adbusters, which conceived of Occupy Wall Street.
Steve Myers contributed to this post.