by Chet Hardin
On Thursday, the president of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth, revoked John Hickenlooper's diploma and took part in a protest that dramatized a citizens' arrest of the Colorado governor.
That was the running narrative, anyway, until multiple news reports were altered to better reflect reality.
As was reported by the student-run blog Wesleying, a group of Wesleyan students took time out of their campus Occupy protest Thursday to turn attentions to our governor.
Back outside, we assembled around the marble dais behind Olin for an excoriating speech by Michael Ross Levin ’78, ’15 who proceeded to strip Governor John Hickenlooper ’74 (as portrayed by Dan Fischer ’12) of his diploma, in light of the brutal police tactics Hickenlooper has used in his repeated attempts to quell Occupy Denver.
The local daily, The Middletown (Conn.) Press, reported that Roth was at the protest and took part in the revocation of the diploma. The story traveled quickly and was picked up on by the Denver Post, which based its reporting on the initial coverage.
Here's the thing: Roth wasn't there. And apparently, the "symbolic" part of the diploma revocation was lost somewhere on the web.
In an apology, the Middletown Press has since explained:
An article published last night on The Middletown Press website incorrectly stated that Wesleyan University President Michael Roth revoked Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s degree. That mistake has caused a steady stream of emails and phone calls to the university, and Roth's assurance to Hickenlooper that his degree had not, in fact, been revoked.
In fact, it was a student protester dressed as Roth, and Hickenlooper’s degree was only “symbolically" revoked. The original article was updated to reflect those errors shortly after being published, though the headline remained the same until this morning.
The error occurred when a Middletown Press editor misread a student-issued press release, and posted an edited version of that release.
The Post never reported that the governor's degree had actually been revoked. But it did report that Roth took part in a symbolic revocation, and called for Hickenlooper's arrest. And when it came time to fix those errors, the Post wasn't overly apologetic.
The first version of its story was reported around 10 p.m. Thursday night. The mistake was caught by the reporter, Joey Bunch, and as of 1 a.m. a new version replaced the older one.
Still, as of 3 p.m. today, 14 hours later, the Post, had yet to acknowledge its initial mistakes. When asked about the paper's correction policy for such incidents, Bunch responded by e-mail: "It's correct on our website and in the paper. I interviewed a student last night, and he told me the local paper had it wrong."
In a follow-up e-mail, he said that he was letting his editor know, and that the correction should be up shortly. About a couple hours after being first contacted by this paper, the Post did put up a correction, stating in part that the original story "incorrectly reported that college president Michael Roth himself was at the rally."
At the rally? The story reported that Roth was not only there, but that he wanted his alumnus arrested.
Check out Wesleying for screenshots of the Post's original reporting and the full history of the misreporting.