News Empire

How not to retract a false story: CBN scrubs Chuck Colson obituary (UPDATE: CBN comes through, fixes dead link)


UPDATE: CBN fixes dead link and issues apology/correction

@michellemalkin "We apologize and take full responsibility for the error." – original link now working again

— Right Scoop (@trscoop) April 19, 2012

We apologize for an earlier wrong report that Chuck Colson died. It was accidentally published and pulled as we investigated the mistake.

— CBN News (@CBNNews) April 19, 2012

CBN News apologizes for the incorrect report on Chuck Colson. Here is our retraction:

— CBN News (@CBNNews) April 19, 2012

From the new retraction/correction:

Earlier CBN News accidentally published an erroneous report that Prison Fellowship Ministries’ founder Chuck Colson had died.

We apologize and take full responsibility for the error.

He has not died but is still gravely ill.

Well done, CBN team.

Twitchy’s original post is below.


The Twitterverse eulogized evangelical leader Chuck Colson this morning after a CBN News report of his death was tweeted ’round the world. One problem: Colson was still alive.

Hours after the article first appeared, CBN scrubbed the story from its website. The news organization issued an apology, but not for misreporting the story. Instead, CBN blamed an erroneous tweet for “crediting CBN News.”

Chuck Colson is NOT dead. A tweet erroneoulsy went out to the contrary crediting CBN News. We apologize.

— CBN News (@CBNNews) April 19, 2012

Just an erroneous tweet? As these tweets demonstrate, the story was published at CBN:

Dont wanna report on Prison Fellowship Founder Chuck Colson's death prematurely but according to

— Marvin Barrera (@CortaPelo1) April 19, 2012

Chuck Colson Dies: Prison Fellowship Founder…

— Dave Seivright (@dseiv1) April 19, 2012

Huge Loss for America: Chuck Colson has died.

— Carol Davis-Sonnier (@glory_and_grace) April 19, 2012

The link included in those tweets leads to a “Page Not Found” message, but the Google preview lives on:

A tweet crediting CBN News with the story didn’t simply materialize out of the Twitter ether. This was not a hacking or an Internet hoax falsely attributed the news outlet. The article was published by CBN on the CBN website and was not replaced with a retraction or apology.

This is a case study in how not to handle a retraction.

Mistakes happen. It’s how a news organization handles those mistakes that matters–transparency and accountability are crucial.

When an error in a Twitchy story was brought to our attention last month, we didn’t scrub the post. We immediately apologized and updated the original story with a correction. Readers who stumble upon the story won’t find a dead link.

This morning a blogger at The Right Sphere misreported Chuck Colson’s death using information from CBN’s story, but he quickly updated the post and headline to reflect the error.

Readers who missed CBN’s strangely worded apology tweet and those who reach the deep-sixed article via Google or an email link have no way of knowing the story is false. There is no apology or correction:

That’s no way to build trust with readers.

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