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Bug #40027 open:under discussion

Correction Half Right

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This bug appeared in a news report published by Newsweek on Apr 21, 2015 by Newsweek Editor. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Simple Factual Error

Yesterday Newsweek added a correction to an op-ed railing against wind power that read: 

"The author of this piece, Randy Simmons, is the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University. He's also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. These ties to the oil industry weren't originally disclosed in this piece. "

While Simmons may be a senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, according to a blog post by Erik Wemple on the Washington Post website, citing an interview with Simmons himself, he is no longer a  Koch Professor.

Although the Newsweek correction links to a Linkedin page indicating that Simmons is currently a Koch Professor, it would appear that the Washington Post has confirmed otherwise.

Still, even though the Newsweek correction may only be half right it's far from being entirely wrong.

 

Response

JT Cassidy has contacted Newsweek

Bug History

Apr 22, 2015 8:58 am Open JT Cassidy
Apr 22, 2015 6:28 pm Open: Under Discussion JT Cassidy

Discussion Leave a comment

 

Similar articles co-authored by Simmons that were published in the Salt Lake Trib and The Hill earlier this year also appear to lack any mention of his relationship with PERC and its connection to Koch and Exxon.

Apr 22, 2015 6:28 pm
 

The editor’s note added to the beginning of Newsweek’s article reads:

“The author of this piece, Randy Simmons, is the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University. He's also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. These ties to the oil industry weren't originally disclosed in this piece.”

The statement mirrors, almost word for word, part of a post on the Media Matters for America website criticizing Newsweek for failing to disclose Simmons’ Koch and ExxonMobil ties that notes:

“But Simmons isn't just any professor of political economy; he is the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State's business school. He's also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center.”

The Newsweek editor’s note and the Media Matters article both link to the same LinkedIn web page which had suggested that Simmons was currently a Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy at Utah State University. That LinkedIn page has since been updated to indicate that Simmons’ status as a Koch Professor ended in 2013.

While Newsweek has admitted that it failed to thoroughly vet the author of the opinion piece it would seem that it also failed to thoroughly fact check the three-sentence long editor’s note that so closely resembles the wording in the Media Matters blog post. If Newsweek had simply looked at the Utah State website it would have seen that Simmons was not listed as a Koch Professor but was rather associated with something called the Koch Scholar Program (heck I did and I’m nobody). Noting this association rather than erroneously calling him a Koch Professor wouldn’t dilute the author's questionable ties any but would pack the extra punch of being truthful, something Newsweek has once again failed to do with this piece.

Apr 27, 2015 6:33 am
 

Okay, Newsweek doesn't vet the author and doesn't fact check the story before publication (as its managing editor, Kira Bindrim, admitted in an interview with Politico). Mistakes happen. But after fessing up to all that, why didn't it take just a few minutes to verify the information in the editor's note at the top of the article which it seems to have borrowed practically wholesale from a Media Matters for America post ("Newsweek Cloaks Koch-Funded Professor's Dirty Energy Agenda"). It's like the editor just slap-dashed it on there without giving it a second thought. As noted in a related MediaBugs report (Half Right), Media Matters for America has since updated its article to "reflect that Simmons is no longer the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State's business school." Newsweek should do the same. It has made so many corrections and updates to this piece already, one more couldn't hurt it. Like the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I can't put the blame on you." I'll never take Newsweek at its word again.

Apr 27, 2015 7:40 pm