How a mainstream media conspiracy works - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

How a mainstream media conspiracy works

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Posted: Friday, February 20, 2009 8:28 pm | Updated: 2:22 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Chris Coppola: We heard from a lot of people around the country Friday, and more than a few closer to home, who were not happy with us here at the Tribune. This was disappointing because many of these same folks, just one day earlier, were thrilled with us.

We heard from a lot of people around the country Friday, and more than a few closer to home, who were not happy with us here at the Tribune. This was disappointing because many of these same folks, just one day earlier, were thrilled with us.

It all had to do with the same thing: One of the stories that was part of the Tribune’s extensive coverage of President Obama’s visit to Mesa earlier this week.

The story by reporter Hayley Ringle ran under the headline: “Dobson students question Obama’s plan.”

Ringle was allowed to watch the president’s speech with a Dobson High School Advanced Placement government class and then speak with students about what they heard.

What resulted was an account of some very impressive teens who clearly were paying attention. More than a few were not afraid to offer doubts about whether the president’s housing plan would really work.

The story quickly caught on nationally. It was linked to our Web site from Drudge Report, which has a massive online following. Then, the undisputed king of conservative commentary, Rush Limbaugh, referenced the article — and our Web site address, eastvalleytribune.com — on his Thursday morning radio program, heard by millions each day. He lauded the students and took a shot at the Tribune:

“How in the world this ever made it into print is beyond me, but it did, and now the nation is going to know about it,” he said, according to a transcript of the program on his Web site.

Other conservative Web sites took note. All day Thursday, the traffic to the Tribune Web site was overwhelming, causing a major slowdown that often made it difficult to access the site (our apologies for that).

At some point late Thursday, as more stories were being posted and updated on our Web site, the text of this story was somehow replaced with the text from another story. (I realize the word “somehow” in that last sentence will only feed suspicions, but just hang in there with me).

It didn’t take long for online readers across the country to notice this, and they let us know about it. Many were convinced it was a left-wing conspiracy hatched by me and others here at the Tribune.

“I am frightened by the profound implications of what we have observed here,” said one e-mail. “The outlook is even more terrifying should such actions have been motivated by pressure from the White House. Plainly, you’ve sold out, and may the grim future of our nation rest squarely on your shoulders.”

Hey, no pressure there.

Said another e-mailer: “Is the (Mesa) Tribune afraid of the consequences writing anything less than pro-Obama may bring?” And yet another: “Is it any wonder fewer and fewer Americans trust news outlets to report the story straight, without truth massaged into what editors and reporters think we need to see and hear?”

We were swamped. The conspiracy theory was on.

In truth, editors here were as surprised as the e-mailers about this. By mid-morning, we fixed the problem and the story was corrected. Believe me, if there is national interest in a Tribune story, we want that interest to continue as long as possible.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever get a clear answer to “somehow.” I do know that our news team handles dozens of stories and headlines throughout the day, and “somehow” things occasionally happen that have to be corrected.

We try our best to do that as quickly as we can.

We responded to as many people as we could to explain the problem, but I knew even this wouldn’t satisfy every suspicion. Still, I welcomed later responses like this one, signed by Jennifer:

“Thank you for fixing the 'technical error.’ Sounds to me more like somebody suddenly grew a pair, thanks to all the e-mails flooding in. Whatever, just glad it’s there, nobody should be afraid to express a dislike to the president’s policies. Those kids are awesome. Have a good day.”

Chris Coppola is editor of the Tribune. He can be reached at ccoppola@evtrib.com or (480) 898-6532

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