Friday, July 27, 2012

Brian Ross: When Sorry Is Enough

But Ben Sherwood Takes Him Out to the Woodshed Nonetheless

"When we make a mistake, we own it..."

Such are the words from ABC News prexy Ben Sherwood, when talking about the egg laid by Brian Ross last week, when he said that Aurora gunman James Holmes was a member of the Tea Party.

Of course, it was a Jim Holmes of Aurora on the Tea Party site, just not that Holmes. Because, Holmes is such an uncommon name so how could Ross not have assumed it was the same guy. Oopsie.

Sherwood characterized the unintended character assassination at the Television Critics Association summer tour as an "unfortunate mistake," to put it extremely mildly.

As The Wrap reported Sherwood saying:

"I challenge the assumption that 'more mistakes are getting mad. We do live in a totally different news cycle, and that's one of the reasons why we want to learn from an episode like that Brian Ross episode and make sure that our procedurals and protocols are as absolutely strong as they can be, and that everybody understands that the reputation of ABC News is on the line."

Darn tootin'.

Still, this says a lot about the star system at ABC. Ross is a celebrated investigative correspondent. To do his job right, he needs to check, verify and check again before his stories hit air. Usually, there's likely an ABC lawyer reviewing his longer pieces. But on breaking news? Nobody questioned Ross because he was, well, Ross. Fair enough, but why did Ross make this association without checking its validity? Simple. He got caught in the moment. He wanted to be first and hoped he was right. Double oopsie.

And if this means that the stars shine a little less bright at the networks because of debacles like this, then that can be one of the few good things that will emerge from this tragedy.

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