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Why We Changed Our Labrador Story | Newsroom Confidential

I hate corrections.

Surely no intelligent journalist would disagree with that sentiment.

And in the case of this particular correction, I really hate having to do them when it’s not something I reported on myself.

In the spirit of transparency I promised readers in my debut “Newsroom Confidential” column last week, I want to explain why this story, first published at 5:59 p.m. Tuesday, now includes a correction and a partial transcript of the interview.

What transpired today happens in newsrooms all the time.

An editor gets a readout from a reporter, and during the day decisions are made about where that story will go and when it will be shared. And sometimes when the story is filed it doesn’t sound as exciting as it once did. Or the reporter held something back. Editors work with the reporters to reshape, and in some cases recast, their stories.

Tuesday, that’s what happened. Matt talked with Rep. Raúl R. Labrador for 40 minutes, and both he and the congressman thought the headline resulting from the interview would be what is the current, updated version of the post now, something along the lines of: Speaker John A. Boehner should lose his gavel if he pursues immigration this year.

But when the editors reviewed the story Matt filed and saw the quote, “I don’t think so,” in reference to Boehner’s speakership, that sounded to us like Labrador was heading toward a mutiny, and we worked with Matt to strengthen the lede and headline.

Here’s what we initially posted:

Tea Party Member Predicts Boehner Will Lose Gavel

Speaker John A. Boehner won’t be holding the gavel much longer, a prominent tea party Republican predicted in an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday.

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, who was part of the failed coup attempt in 2013, predicted Boehner won’t be speaker come January — perhaps sooner if the Ohio Republican brings an immigration overhaul to the floor.

“I think it should cost him his speakership,” Labrador said, if Boehner puts an immigration overhaul on the floor.

Note the direct quotes — Labrador said these things, and the other juicy quotes throughout the story. We have it on tape. He didn’t mince words. And those that view him as a troublemaker on Capitol Hill won’t be surprised to see him as not ruling out an attempt to seek a leadership post.

But the congressman didn’t think we had it right. So that’s when Labrador got involved, calling the newsroom around 7 p.m. to tell Leadership Editor Steven T. Dennis he found the headline inaccurate.

We’ve been in this business a long time, and when a politician wants something changed, it’s usually because they are either in trouble from on high, or don’t like the way it makes them appear. We let the Republican know that the interview had been recorded. After hearing Labrador out, and pressing him on some of the same questions Matt had asked earlier, and investigating further, Steven was convinced the first sentence of this story was not accurate.

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