Oregonian Explains Newsroom Source Gave 'Misinformation' in 1st Story on Editor's Death

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The Oregonian's editor Peter Bhatia provided background to readers on its original mis-reporting that Bob Caldwell was found dead in his car. (Credit: Oregonian, screenshot)

In The Oregonian’s correction of its original obituary for one of its editors, Bob Caldwell, the newspaper revealed that Caldwell was having an affair and reported that Caldwell gave money for school-related purchases to a 23-year-old woman in exchange for sex.

MSNBC noted that Caldwell, 63, was “one of the paper’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning editors” and was “married with three children.”  Willamette Week explained that Glanville was “a veteran editor on the newspaper’s breaking news team.”

Originally, The Oregonian reported that Caldwell was found dead in his car, but later the newspaper corrected its report with the March 12 report “Bob Caldwell was with 23-year-old Tigard woman when he went into cardiac arrest.”

The news seemed sensational and invasive, but the newspaper explained that it had to report the details because the original wrong information — that Caldwell was found dead in the car — came from a member of the newsroom.    Reuters blogger Felix Salmon noted that he was “puzzled by the aggressive” reporting of The Oregonian, but that because the inaccurate information came from an Oregonian empoyee, Kathleen Glanville, it makes more sense for the Oregonian to have to “print such salacious gossip.”

Glanville explained in a Facebook post that she “was fired” because she gave false information — that Caldwell was found dead in his car– in order to spare reporting “the embarrassing details of his death, which I knew only because of the close relationship with his wife,” Salmon wrote.

Salmon criticized Glanville’s post, which he called “incredibly disingenuous and self-serving,” because Glanville didn’t just “not tell” the newspaper what happened, but because she “made up false information and planted it in the paper.”  Similarly, New York magazine argued that she “should have stayed far away from the story.”

Oregonian executive editor Peter Bhatia confirmed in a March 16 opinion piece that Glanville provided the original misinformation of being found in the car and that she is a “close friend of the Caldwell family.”  However, Bhatia noted that an Oregonian reporter learned from the “police report on Caldwell’s death” of “the true circumstances of what happened.”  Because The Oregonian had originally reported inaccurate information, Bhatia explained that he and the newspaper’s managing editors, Therese Bottomly and Susan Gage, decided that the newspaper “had to print the full story of our colleague’s death, especially after reporting it incorrectly in that morning’s paper.”

Further, the newspaper reported the details because “first, it was the truth, and it was news.”  Also, Bhatia added that Caldwell’s “stature…in the community” came into play.

“Frankly, this was a no-win choice. If we went with the story, we would be criticized for besmirching a good man and further hurting his family. If we held the details back, we would be accused of a cover-up.”

Bhatia wrote that there wasn’t any “cover-up” of the original report, but defended the newspaper eventual detailed reporting because it “was the journalistically responsible and ethically proper response, especially given the initial erroneous report.”

Bhatia noted that the newspaper didn’t name the woman in question “as she was not charged with a crime.”  Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Sergeant Dave Thompson explained the police “technicallly…could have charged her with prostitution…but it’s a misdemeanor crime and the circumstances of the guy dying in her apartment, we felt like it was probably not the most important arrest to make.”

Bhatia also had The Oregonian take the responsibility in part for the initial bad information.  “We can be faulted for not digging deeper” and publishing earlier the police report information, he wrote.

MSNBC noted that Caldwell’s widow Lora Cuykendall wrote on Facebook that her late husband “would have understood why The Oregonian needed to print the story” and that he “would have regretted the anguish that it caused.”

Bhatia told iMediaEthics he has no further comment.

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Oregonian Explains Newsroom Source Gave ‘Misinformation’ in 1st Story on Editor’s Death

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