Media Watch


When the Arizona Daily Star posted an online story on Sunday, May 2, about a suspect in the murder of Cochise County rancher Rob Krentz, the headline and the first paragraph made it seem as if that suspect was an "American."

Border activists grabbed hold of the headline, "American Is Focus in Krentz Killing," as did media outlets from The Huffington Post to Keith Olbermann, who has been somewhat obsessed with big, bad Arizona. (Note to Olbermann: The AZ GOP has been picking on ethnic studies for years. This is nothing new.)

On Monday morning, that same story ran across the top of the print-edition front page, with the same headline, and the same lede paragraph: "The killing of a Southern Arizona rancher that sparked an outcry to secure the border was not random, and investigators are focusing on an American suspect, the Arizona Daily Star has learned.

By the afternoon, however, the online edition showed a different story, with a new headline and a new lede—with American replaced with "suspect in the U.S."

This retraction was included: "Earlier versions of this news story referred to the possible suspect in the Krentz killing investigation as American. The story—as originally reported—said the suspect is believed to be in the United States. It was changed to 'American' in the editing process. To be clear, the suspect is believed to be in the U.S. The suspect's nationality is unknown."

The Star ran a similar correction on Tuesday's front page. Some in the national media missed that correction, although Olbermann did note that The Associated Press had a different take in a story released Monday—that "a man suspected of fatally shooting a cattle rancher near the Arizona-Mexico border was a Mexican who was recently in the United States."

The AP reported that the information came from a law-enforcement official who "works for an agency that isn't leading the investigation and requested anonymity."

According to the Star article, the daily's information came from "high-ranking government officials with credible information." The story said that the newspaper's "policy is not to use unnamed sources except in instances in which the information is of high public interest."

The Star's executive editor, Bobbie Jo Buel-Carter, echoed the retraction in an e-mail to the Tucson Weekly.

"The third paragraph has been the same in all versions and is correct: Cochise County is investigating a person in the United States, not in Mexico. We do not know the person's nationality. The reporter understood the situation correctly from the start," Buel-Carter wrote.

Buel-Carter said source policy is part of the newspaper's ethics code, which is on the Star's website. "We discussed the code several times in reporting and writing the story," she wrote.

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