This month, ABC News has issued two statements about its reporting.
Earlier this month, the network retracted some claims made in a June 29 report about Bravo TV Real Housewives of Orange County personality Brooks Ayers. However, the statement isn’t characterized by ABC News as a “retraction.” iMediaEthics has asked ABC News if it considers the report a “retraction” and for more information about how the errors were made, and will update with any information.
ABC News’ Oct. 9 “statement” about the 20/20 segment lists several points to “clarify” its reporting. ABC News said it wanted “to clarify that Ayers’ insurance paid for most of Joey’s medical expenses arising from the birth, although not Catanzarite’s” when it had originally claimed he “left…Catanzarite with unpaid medical bills relating to the birth of their son Joey.” The clarification reads in full:
“The report said, among other things, that Ayers had left his former girlfriend Nicolette Catanzarite with unpaid medical bills relating to the birth of their son Joey in December 2008, that Ayers had not visited or communicated with Joey since he was 5 or 6 months old, and that Catanzarite had been unable to locate Ayers until he was first referred to on ‘Real Housewives’ in 2011.
“We want to clarify that Ayers’ insurance paid for most of Joey’s medical expenses arising from the birth, although not Catanzarite’s; that Ayers provided rent money and certain other expenses to Catanzarite for a time after Joey was born; and that Ayers saw Joey a number of times after their break-up in May 2009, the last being July or August 2010 when Joey was 19 or 20 months old. We also wanted to clarify that Ayers and Catanzarite have communicated periodically since that time, and that when Catanzarite was in California in January 2012, she met with Ayers and his girlfriend.”
And, last week, ABC News retracted an Aug. 20 story about Tony Scott. In a note at the bottom of an Aug. 23 report on Scott’s autopsy:
“Please Note: ABC News previously reported that director Tony Scott had inoperable brain cancer and cited it as a possible reason for his suicide. The Los Angeles County coroner’s report on Mr. Scott’s death listed no evidence of brain cancer. ABC News has retracted that Aug. 20 story and extends a formal apology to Mr. Scott’s family and friends.”
Poynter noted that ABC waited to correct “even though the Los Angeles County coroner said at the time that the family denied that Scott had the disease.”
ABC News spokesperson Julie Townsend pointed iMediaEthics to ABC News’ “updated story” including a “retraction and apology to Mr. Scott’s family” (cited above).
iMediaEthics asked Townsend what ABC News’ source was for the “inoperable brain cancer” element of its reporting and why it waited to correct; however Townsend told iMediaEthics that “We don’t comment on our reporting.” She added that “ABC News attempted on many occasions to reach the family or a representative of the family to confirm the Assistant Coroner’s statements” but was told “they had no comment.” Townsend wrote:
“The Los Angeles Coroner’s report was the first irrefutable confirmation ABC News received that confirmed incorrect information was reported in August. We have since issued an apology and retraction both on-line and on-air.”
Townsend also noted that in August, ABC News said
“ABC News continues to report the most recent facts on ABCNews.com, including our previous reporting and the conflicting statement from the coroner. ABC News is attempting to reach Scott’s family to confirm the assistant chief coroner’s statement. After speaking with the family or a representative of the family we will update our reporting accordingly. If it comes to light at that time that incorrect information was reported, ABC News will issue a full retraction and apology.”
Further, she gave iMediaEthics the network’s statement on the Scott report. It reads:
“Our number one responsibility is to be accurate, and this reporting fell well short of our standards. The matter was investigated by senior ABC News management, and appropriate disciplinary action was taken.”