Why Hasn't The Washington Post Admitted That It Totally Screwed Up Its 'Free Super WiFi' Report?
from the this-is-getting-silly dept
The truth was that there was nothing of the sort. There was a minor step in a decade-long fight over putting some old TV spectrum to better use. It wasn't new. It wasn't anything important. And it had little to nothing to do with blanketing the US in free WiFi -- especially free WiFi supplied by the FCC (as the Post article implied, and which many people took to be true). A few others got on the debunking train as well, and one of the earlier thorough debunkings came from Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin, who pointed out that it was just bad journalism at work.
While some of the others who picked up on the original story have since admitted they were mistaken, Brodkin has a new article pointing out that the original story won't die. He was contacted to go on Current TV about it until he explained that there was no story. But the really awful part is that the Washington Post itself and reporter Cecilia Kang (who normally does good work, so this still has me baffled) still have not corrected their original piece. Instead, Kang put up a weak follow up piece that added five "things to know" about the plan. The "five things" are all accurate, but they were sort of core to the original story and weren't in there. The whole point is that the original story is incredibly misleading, and the proper thing to do was to put a giant correction notice on it, pointing out that they screwed up the original story. It was misleading to the extreme, and at points, implied things that were simply incorrect.
Yes, it's embarrassing to admit you were wrong, but it's more embarrassing to let a wrong story live on. As Brodkin notes, because the original story is still out there and uncorrected, the false story lives on in many places. He also notes that the Washington Post is standing by the story, which makes no sense:
I ended up talking to the Post reporter on the phone and e-mailing with the Post's ombudsman. The ombudsman told me that the FCC confirmed to the Post that the "free Wi-Fi" story was correct, which is odd, because I also talked to people at the FCC who said the exact opposite. Similarly, a TechCrunch reporter wrote that "my contact at the FCC told me that there was no such plan" as the one reported by the Post.And people wonder why folks have trouble "trusting" the press these days?
The Post reporter was genuinely nice and seemed eager to correct the record, but the execution was lacking. She followed up with a more realistic piece titled "Five things to know about 'free' public Wi-Fi." It explains some of the realities of the situation, such as the fact that the FCC won't be building any networks itself and that whatever networks are built won't necessarily be used to provide free Internet access.
The Post's follow-up story was all well and good, but the original story was never corrected or retracted. In addition to getting the front-page treatment, the initial Post story was coupled with a cringe-inducing video titled "FCC offers path to free Internet access." A host begins the spot by asking, "What if Wi-Fi didn't come from a router in your living room but instead from powerful TV antennas? And better yet, what if you didn't have to pay for it? That possibility could become a reality across the US thanks to a new proposal by the Federal Communications Commission." (Have I made it clear that the proposal is not new and never required "free access," either?)