We made an error, but...
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Recently, Chile's media have been taking stock of a confrontation between one of the country's most influential dailies, La Tercera, and Pablo Longueira, the minister of the economy for the Sebastian Pinera administration.
The story goes like this: On May 27, La Tercera reported on a meeting between Pablo Longueira (pictured) and senator Jovino Novoa, the president of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party. The details of that meeting are not as important as the debate that ensued.
In the May 28 edition of the paper's letters to the editor, Longueira published a letter denying the facts reported. The letter claimed that the meeting had never happened and that Longueira had not even spoken of the matter by telephone.
The statement said, "I am sorry to see your media organization tarnish itself, once again, with mistaken, false and nonexistent affirmations about me. I understand that, as a minister of the state, I must be open to criticism from citizens and to public opinion, but that does not free your media organization to affirm false facts and situations that only exist in the realm of dark speculation."
Shortly after, the paper responded with an Editor's Note, which was unedited and had a very strange tone. In part it recognized that the paper had made an error in reporting that the conversation had taken place. But then the editor revealed that one of senator Novoa's auditors had supplied the information, and that "due to a lack of internal coordination the information was not checked, as La Tercera's editorial process, and good journalism, would typically dictate."
The reply went on, incredibly, to say: "With regard to the other accusations laid out in the letter (the 'dark speculation'), they do not address concrete facts. Instead, they are based in the personal sensitivities of the minister and in his own distorted view of reality, which is well known and which has caused problems in the past."
We have to pause there. They did well in apologizing for failing to verify the information, though there is no excuse for publishing unverified information. This is the minimum required in the exercise of journalism, and it is even more important in the features section, where the standards for quality are even higher.
But this very odd apology is accompanied by more errors. First, the apology exposed the story's source. The editor clearly states that the source was one of Novoa's auditors, and they provide enough information to actually identify her. The paper failed to protect its source because the source had failed the paper.