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Post.com : What Happened

FishbowlDC just got off the phone with WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Jim Brady who wanted to clarify a few points about why washingtonpost.com featured a piece yesterday titled, “John Edwards Suspends White House Bid.”

According to Brady, no one at washingtonpost.com even knew that such a headline had been published. When FishbowlDC published this anonymous tip yesterday…

    Did you catch that washingtonpost.com posted the top story, with huge-font headline “Edwards suspends White House bid” then minutes later replaced that story with “Edwards: Wife’s Cancer Is Back Democratic presidential hopeful says campaign for second White House bid will “go on strongly.” ?? Funny. The corrected text did not link to a story. It was just plain text on the homepage.

…Brady asked his colleagues if it was true. No one could recall such a headline being published but they decided to look into it. Then, when FishbowlDC published the screengrab today (confirming that, in fact, such a headline had been published by washingtonpost.com at 12:32pm Thursday), post.com looked into their site’s data and realized that, in fact, such a headline had been posted. Brady says that their data indicates that the headline was only up for 51 seconds and that it was the result of a publishing tool error and that no individual made a decision to publish that particular headline. They’re still looking into the situation and trying to figure out how, what Brady calls “a total tool error”, happened. Brady expects to publish an explanation on the website shortly.

“It was absolutely not a journalistic decision,” Brady said. “It was a publishing screw up that we didn’t even know had happened until this tip was posted.”

Brady says that it is routine procedure for post.com to tee up several potential headlines in the system if they know of an upcoming news event. In this case scenario, post.com had three possible scenarios in their system: Edwards ends campaign, Edwards suspends campaign and Edwards continues campaign. Brady concedes that the “Edwards suspends campaign” headline draft certainly had its genesis in the faulty Politico article.

“We thought that that was the most likely scenario, based largely on what we had heard on from the Politico,” Brady said.

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