Cronkite News Service Corrects Story on Sentencing Guidelines; Ex-Inmate Wasn't Good Example for Reform

 

gottsponer candita.JPG
Image: Arizona Department of Corrections
The Cronkite News Service issued a lengthy correction to an article that featured ex-inmate Candita Gottsponer (above) as a poster child for sentencing reform.
The Cronkite News Service issued a lengthy correction to a students' article about Arizona sentencing guidelines, but the misinformation persists on the Internet.

The May 18 article, which was widely published throughout the state and elsewhere, told readers about the sad case of Candita Gottsponer, a Flagstaff woman with a record for pot possession who supposedly received 23 months in prison for her first DUI.

The anecdote sounded fishy to us, as we explained in our May 27 blog post, and we soon discovered that Gottsponer had a much more extensive criminal history. Though not a violent criminal, the convicted thief, meth user and absconder is certainly no poster child for sentencing reform.

The mistake was a shame for three reasons: It slipped past Cronkite News Service editor Steve Elliott, a veteran from the Associated Press; it found its way onto the Web sites of several newspapers and countless blogs; and it distracted from the undisputed theme of the article, which was that some reform is needed because too many non-violent offenders are in Arizona's costly prisons.

 

We wrote about this situation in part to point out that the ailing newspaper industry needs to be more vigilant when using free content disseminated from student publications. We're pretty sure the message has been received, judging by the way many newspapers -- like the Arizona Daily Sun and East Valley Tribune -- changed the article after receiving the Cronkite "corrective."

Still, it's disturbing to see not only how many newspapers ran the story as-is, despite the seemingly obvious bit of nonsense in the top part, but also how the erroneous section remains alive in cyberspace.

We've lost sleep in the past thinking about how any mistake we publish online might well last until the arrival of some sort of Digital Armageddon

 


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7 comments
Ray Stern
Ray Stern

A Citizen -- I took the word "since" out of the sentence. That was a bit of word misprocessing, as was the the misspelling of Elliott's name. (Hey, do I get any points for spelling it right in the first blog post? Okay, probably not...)

"Corrective" is in quotation marks because I don't see that word much and that's what CNS called it. (Note the use of quotations around the word in the following excerpt from Editor and Publisher regarding a New York Times "corrective." -- http://mediamatters.org/resear...

"That there are errors in cyberspace is nothing to lose sleep over." I'm quite sure that statement is true when it comes to errors published by anonymous commenters. However, even you appreciate the value in cleaning up errors, judging by your helpful tip about the extra word in my "We wrote about this situation" sentence.

As to Mistalee's call for me to correct something: My articles never questioned that the DUI was her first. Go back and read my first post on the subject. "Dishonesty," my arse.

A Citizen
A Citizen

There's something odd in the tone of this.  Who is the "we"?  Why still the scold after the correction?  Why is "corrective" in quotation marks?  Seems like there is another agenda in operation here other than the good faith pointing out and correction of an error.

I'm puzzled, also, by the attitude toward error.  I presume that we all strive to avoid errors, but errors happen, then we correct them, learn from them, and move on.  That there are errors in cyberspace is nothing to lose sleep over.  If that is the case, it might be best to refrain from publishing at all.

Or is the problem that many newspapers ran the piece (still can't find where it ran in USA Today, by the way)?  Many newspapers run with all sorts of nonsense (see the media concern about Weiner's weiner, as opposed to, say, the support for torture in Congress), yet that this particular piece was widely reprinted seems to have touched a nerve with Stern.

Finally, one last note.  I keep reading this sentence, " We wrote about this situation in part to point out that since the ailing newspaper industry needs to be more vigilant when using free content disseminated from student publications,." but can't seem to reason it into a logical, complete sentence. 

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott

Ray: 

My name is spelled Elliott, not Elliot. 

Steve Elliott

Mistalee
Mistalee

Now all Mr. Stern has to do is take a momentary break from his kvelling and correct his own story.

This does appear to be Ms. Gottsponer's first DUI.

Gottsponer was convicted of theft and possession of dangerous drugs BACK IN THE 1990'S. Doesn't make sense that two non-violent convictions back in the '90s totally unrelated to DUI should get you sentenced to two and a half years in prison for first-time DUI a decade later.

She was also convicted of providing liquor to a minor in 2002.  Again, doesn't make sense that this would get you screwed to the wall years later for a first offense DUI.

Stern's lede, which was that Cronkite screwed up badly by presenting Gottsponer as a poster child to support THEIR lede about overly harsh sentencing, was weak. Gottsponer's record was not as clean as Cronkite News Service suggested, but also nowhere near bad enough to justify the two-year sentence which is the bone of contention in this whole affair. So Stern sexed it up by listing charges in his article of which Gottsponer was never convicted! Stern did acknowledge that these charges were dropped, but was intellectually dishonest in implying that charges of which Gottsponer was never convicted somehow helped validate her extreme sentence for first-time DUI.

Of course, what may validate her sentence is that she was not just charged with first-time DUI as Stern said, but with extreme and aggravated DUI due to a child under 15 being in the vehicle. She was also convicted of false reporting to law enforcement in connection with this incident.  And then there's the marijuana bust of which she WAS convicted. I'm assuming this was not dishonesty, just sloppy investigative work on Stern's part.  The same kind he lords over Cronkite News Service.

How about it, Ray? Since you're feeling all pious about accuracy in reporting, do you want to come clean about this?

The Pulp Blog
The Pulp Blog

At least he's paying attention to something.

Mistalee
Mistalee

I haven't spoken to Much in ages. How is Much doing?

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