Roll Call explains why it corrected Raúl Labrador story

Roll Call

"It sucks. I hate it, especially just two weeks into the job," Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni writes about a story the publication posted online Tuesday evening, then reworked after its subject complained.

Roll Call editors put the headline "Tea Party Member Predicts Boehner Will Lose Gavel" on a Matt Fuller story about U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador. While editing the story, Roll Call's editors thought one quote "sounded to us like Labrador was heading toward a mutiny." So they "worked with Matt to strengthen the lede and headline," Bellantoni writes.

Labrador called to complain -- not an unusual occurrence, Bellantoni writes -- but after hearing him out and reviewing Fuller's transcript, the publication thought he had a point. The story's headline changed from "Tea Party Member Predicts Boehner Will Lose Gavel" to "Is Boehner’s Gavel on the Line?" Its lede went from "Speaker John A. Boehner won’t be holding the gavel much longer, a prominent tea party Republican predicted in an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday" to "Speaker John A. Boehner should lose his gavel if he pursues immigration this year, a prominent tea party Republican said in an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday."

In her note, Bellantoni includes not just the original story and a catalog of the changes Roll Call made after publication, but a section of Fuller's transcript as well.

Bellantoni says she hates corrections. "Surely no intelligent journalist would disagree with that sentiment," she writes. But the way she handled this one is an argument for why corrections can be something to celebrate. It's hard to imagine readers trusting Roll Call less after such a show of transparency, just like it's easy to imagine the publication's editors being careful on future stories to avoid giving the boss a topic for a future column.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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