What James Taranto has dubbed the Wild Goose-Step Chase appears to be winding down, as outlandish reports by Michael Miller in The Miami New Times of neo-Nazis “conducting heavily armed patrols in and around Sanford, Florida” were debunked by your humble correspondent over the weekend.
But not before numerous websites spread the story far and wide, leading to attempts to politicize the story by people like Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:
You know all that rhetoric about “race war” that’s showing up at Breitbart.com and many other right wing sites these days? It’s not just rhetoric. There are some people in Sanford, Florida right now who are taking it very seriously indeed: Armed Neo-Nazis Now Patrolling Sanford, Say They Are ‘Prepared’ for Post-Trayvon Martin Violence.
Many major websites ran with the story without question as well.
Among major print newspapers, only The New York Post and The NY Daily News ran the story on their websites without challenge. The NY Post still has not updated its story, but The Daily News did update its report after I alerted the writer to the denial by Sanford Police.
But The Daily News went a step further, and completely replaced its first report with a second story using the same url as the first, but with very different approaches.
As these screenshots indicate, the first story pretty much repeated the Miami New Times report as true, while the second story reduced it to a future intention by neo-Nazis to patrol, noting the denial by Sanford Police.
I understand why, in good faith, The Daily News may have wanted to drop the prior article completely. Keeping the headline and story up with just an update keeps the story alive to a certain extent in search engines. But the headline could have reflected that there was an update, which would have ameliorated much of the problem.
I have a different problem with the substitution of stories by The Daily News.
Completely substituting one post for another, while using the original url for both, had the effect of washing out a key part of the story here: The irresponsible spread of racially charged rumors in an already racially tense situation by a well-known print and web publication.
I would have preferred a mea culpa together with a correction.