False info from a source, and how we dealt with it

As it turns out, my source for a story that ran in Tuesday’s paper — the Ohio EPA — gave me incorrect information.

To compensate, we’re correcting the original story on the web (although it looks like the sub-headline hasn’t been changed) and we’re running a second story in the same place, 1A downpage, that clarifies the facts.

Here’s the link to that story.

Like This American Life recently, the key concepts of my story remain essentially the same. But unlike Ira Glass, we didn’t beat our chests and ask for forgiveness.

I think my editors did the right thing. Daisey’s story could have been corroborated by scores of possible sources. Ohio EPA is the ONLY source for information here, aside from the corporate polluter itself. If we can’t trust the state EPA, who can we trust?

Normally, people at the agency are right on the money. I’ve probably spoken with them on 15 stories, relaying hundreds or thousands of facts, and this is the first one someone’s had an issue with.

But in this business, even a single fact gone awry is a big deal.

That’s why, in the coming days, we may write another story detailing what parts of the process failed, why, and how a few experts would fix them.

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