Overreacting to Ben Smith

Politico reporter Ben Smith is taking a real beating for erroneously reporting that John Edwards was going to suspend his presidential campaign earlier today--even though he's acknowledged and apologized for his mistake. Here's a taste of anti-Smith commentary:
Good journalists don't make the kind of mistake that you did today. It isn't about Edwards - it is about you getting the story right. Your credibility has taken a serious hit, and you deserve it.
Easy, now. Yeah, Smith made a mistake based on information given him by one anonymous source, whom Smith still (commendably) refuses to name. But Smith didn't misrepresent the nature of his information in the original post at all. Here's what he wrote:
John Edwards is suspending his campaign for President, and may drop out completely, because his wife has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that sickened her in 2004, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, an Edwards friend told The Politico.
In light of that description, readers were free to draw their own conclusions. Maybe the "friend" simply had bad info; maybe he/she had good info at one point, but then Edwards changed his mind. It doesn't really matter. Smith was forthcoming about the kind of tip he'd been given.

Several of Smith's critics also argue that he should simply have waited until Edwards' official announcement to write about any change in his campaign's status. The point they miss is that Smith was blogging here, not writing an article. Smith almost certainly would have sourced more extensively if he'd been doing the latter.

Anyone who gets their information from blogs should realize there's a trade-off at work: you get your information more quickly and more snappily (usually), but in a less refined state. If you don't like it, you can wait for the nightly news or the morning's papers.

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