On Thursday, ESPN clarified an incorrect report it had issued during the nascent Deflategate investigation.
Two days after the AFC Championship Game in Jan. 2015, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted and published a report on ESPN.com, which stated that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 footballs were underinflated at least two PSI per square inch. Mortensen’s story followed a report by WTHR’s Bob Kravitz, who tweeted the NFL was investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
Mortensen’s information proved incorrect, something ESPN learned “relatively soon after the publication of the initial story,’’ according to a story published Thursday by ESPN’s public editor Jim Brady.
More than 13 months following initial publication of Mortensen’s story, the article was edited with a clarification.
CLARIFICATION: A Jan. 21, 2015, story on ESPN.com reported, citing sources, that 11 of 12 footballs were underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch during the New England Patriots’ win over the Indianapolis Colts. Additional reporting clarified that 11 of the 12 balls were significantly underinflated, ranging up to 2 pounds per square inch.
ESPN stood by the report until Mortensen deleted his tweet on Aug. 4, 2015. ESPN’s Brady noted the deletion put ESPN.com in a bind.
“If ESPN stood by the story, then it was fair to ask why the tweet had been deleted,’’ Brady writes. “But instead of closing the circle, nothing happened. The tweet was gone, the story unchanged. Six months later, that incongruity still inexplicably stood, as did the inaccurate reference to the underinflation amount of 2 PSI in the ESPN.com story.’’
ESPN’s vice president of global digital content Patrick Stiegman addressed why the clarification took as long as it did.
“Typically, we wouldn’t revise a story more than 6 months old in our archives, but after Mort clarified his reporting and removed the tweet, for transparency reasons, we should have updated our online version,’’ Stiegman told Brady. “We did thoroughly cover the deflation issue, including Seth and Don’s in-depth reporting, Mort’s on-air reports, and subsequent coverage of the Wells report — and its detractors. But given the attention to the story, could the clarification have come sooner? Certainly.’’
Mortensen did not comment on Thursday’s correction. As Brady notes, “he sadly is undergoing treatment for Stage 4 throat cancer’’
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