Inadequate sourcing led to NPR’s misreporting on Giffords

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How did NPR News make such a huge and serious error in misreporting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been killed during the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson? NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard reports that information fed to the newscast unit by KJZZ News Director Mark Moran and NPR Correspondent Audie Cornish was from anonymous sources and and neither provided accurate, first-hand accounts.

“Typically, in a big, fast-breaking news story like this, senior editors should have been consulted before going on air with devastating news based on sources NPR would not name,” Shepard writes. “But that didn’t happen.”

Andy Carvin, NPR senior social media strategist, posted the erroneous news on two NPR twitter accounts, but opted not to delete the tweets. He explains in this Lost Remote comment thread: “I posted that she had been killed because that is what we were reporting, and as soon as I saw we were backing off from that assertion, I posted the followup noting that as well. I very briefly considered deleting the incorrect tweet, but concluded it was both pointless and inappropriate….I can imagine if I had deleted it, we’d be reading news stories and blog posts today about NPR trying to cover our tracks on Twitter.”

Dick Meyer, NPR News executive editor, acknowledged and apologized for the error on Jan. 9.