Learning from your mistakes

July 29, 2015 08:45

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

We recently published on the RTDNA website a blog post by longtime RTDNA board member and former officer Vincent Duffy entitled “You Can’t FOIA Us—We Own You.”

The article by Duffy, News Director at Michigan Radio, centered around the premise that problems can arise when it comes to a news organization (like Michigan Radio) filing a FOIA request for records with a university which holds the license of the broadcast station that is making the request.  In this case, Michigan Radio is owned by the University of Michigan.

Once the post appeared, discussions ensued between Duffy and university lawyers and officials over the wording used in parts of the post. Ultimately, Duffy asked me to take down the story because of the conflict over accuracy which had ensued.

In retrospect, we acted too quickly in doing so. Contributing to this was the fact that Duffy did not feel the story could be corrected to everyone’s satisfaction. After we did so, a reader Tweeted out a query asking what happened to the story and we replied, also via Twitter, with the following explanation from Duffy:
“The post was incorrect.  Michigan Radio does submit FOIA requests to the University of Michigan and they are routinely fulfilled, as they were on this most recent request.  The story was removed at the direction of Vincent Duffy.”

We erred in taking the post down and not replacing it with a suitable explanation as to why we did so.  We apologize to our readers for that omission. We later posted Duffy’s response above on the website as well as on our Twitter feed.
Should it become necessary in the future, we will ask if at all possible, the article be corrected by the author. We will place any such correction above the original post. Only if there is no other editorial alternative, will we remove the post. We will then provide, on the same page, as full and complete an explanation as we can.
You have every right to expect the highest standards of journalism coming from this organization and its leadership. You have our assurance that we will do better in the future.

The Columbia Journalism Review website has its own analysis of this story.