Support the news
Mark Stencel is NPR's managing editor for digital news.
We've heard from people with a range of views in response to an erroneous blog post published here Tuesday. The post, which was corrected and updated, was about a widely circulated online video that subsequently led to the firing of a Planned Parenthood employee in New Jersey.
The liberal activist group MoveOn has urged its supporters to contact NPR and tell us to delete the post altogether for failing to explain how the video was circulated, and by whom.
Meanwhile, the network of conservative websites run by online publisher Andrew Breitbart — which was among the primary distribution channels for the video — took us to task for incorrectly attributing the video to activist James O'Keefe.
Live Action, the anti-abortion group that actually produced the video, took issue with our mistake, too — as well as our use of the term "conservative" to characterize the organization. "[P]lease stop arrogantly imposing your labels upon us," Live Action said on its blog. You can see what they had to say in their own words.
Here's how the story, including our error, unfolded.
As we noted in the correction on Tuesday's posting (linked above), the first version of the item incorrectly stated that Live Action was the same group that previously circulated a similar undercover video targeting the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. It was not. The "undercover" ACORN video was produced by James O'Keefe. Like the Live Action video, O'Keefe's video targeting ACORN involved activists posing as pimps asking for advice.
A Live Action media representative, Colleen O'Boyle, immediately notified NPR's blogger that O'Keefe was not formally affiliated with their organization. Our blogger quickly corrected headline and text of the posting. A correction note was added to the post and also appeared on NPR's corrections page. (Lila Rose, Live Action's founder, told the Washington Post on Wednesday that her group has not worked with O'Keefe for three years. Rose's past connection with O'Keefe was detailed in a Los Angles Times report in 2009.)
Our original error was repeated in the Web address, or URL, of Tuesday's posting (the address read, in part, "group-behind-acorn-undercover-videos-sets-up-planned-parenthood-sting"). Since a correction appeared prominently at the top of the item, we delayed revising that address until Wednesday, when we were certain the change would not make the posting inaccessible to the numerous sites and users — especially any critics — that had already linked to it.
As for questions about the Live Action video that was embedded on our blog: Tuesday's posting explained that the video had been edited and produced by an interest group and was being circulated widely by Planned Parenthood's opponents. The posting also noted that Planned Parenthood suspected the video was the result of a Live Action campaign against the organization.
The blog post was updated Tuesday after Planned Parenthood released a statement saying it had fired the New Jersey clinic manager who appeared in the video. Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the full video showed its employee "behaving in a repugnant manner that is inconsistent with our standards of care."
Breitbart's network of websites helped circulate Live Action's video — as well as James O'Keefe's ACORN video. That network also made headlines last year when it published a controversial video excerpt that led to the firing of senior Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod. When the full video of Sherrod's speech was released, the Obama administration apologized for overreacting to a racially tinged remark that was taken out of context.
MoveOn's message to its supporters criticized NPR's posting for failing to mention the role BigGovernment and Breitbart's other sites played in helping circulate the Planned Parenthood video. The group also equated the Planned Parenthood clip with the Sherrod video.
Update at 6 p.m. ET: Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, NPR's independent public representative, also received calls and e-mail about Tuesday's blog post and has weighed in with her own evaluation.
We'll let you have your say in the comments below.
Support the news