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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.

We asked Matt to send the relevant portion of his transcript, which you can find below. After reviewing it, we decided we had interpreted the context incorrectly and that our lede and headline were indeed wrong. So we opted to buck our deadlines for the print edition and rework the piece. That’s what’s posted online now and what will appear in the print editions of Roll Call on Wednesday.

Here’s the biggest change we made to the story.

Original:

But Labrador doesn’t see Boehner as speaker in the 114th.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

Labrador described Boehner with words and phrases such as “pragmatic” and a “steady hand” and as someone who “understands how Washington works.” But Labrador said he doesn’t think the Ohio Republican can change who he is.

“And what I respect about him is that I don’t think he wants to change who he is — that’s actually something to be lauded,” Labrador said. But Labrador intimated that doesn’t mean he’s right for the job.

New lede:

Speaker John A. Boehner should lose his gavel if he pursues immigration this year, a prominent tea party Republican said in an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday.

“I think it should cost him his speakership,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho warned, if Boehner puts an immigration overhaul on the floor.

But even if Boehner shelves immigration, Labrador said, the party needs new leadership — and the two-term lawmaker is not ruling out a run for leadership himself.

New section:

But does Labrador see Boehner as speaker in the 114th?

Labrador described Boehner with words and phrases such as “pragmatic” and a “steady hand” and as someone who “understands how Washington works.” But Labrador said he doesn’t think the Ohio Republican is interested in transforming himself.

“And what I respect about him is that I don’t think he wants to change who he is — that’s actually something to be lauded,” Labrador said. But Labrador intimated that doesn’t mean he’s right for the job.

CQ Roll Call asked whether Boehner can re-create himself once again.

“I don’t think so,” Labrador said.

As for Cantor: “I think he could provide that bold leadership, but he needs to be more open about it, more direct about what direction he wants to go.”

Labrador called CQ Roll Call after an earlier version of this story was posted to stress that he was not predicting Boehner would lose his job, but he said his gut tells him Boehner will not seek another term as speaker. He declined to rule out a run but said he has given no thought to running for speaker.

Thanks to the speed-of-light political echo chamber, the link is already out there, so changing the URL does not fix the problem, which is why it remains with words from the original headline.

So there you have it.

It sucks. I hate it, especially just two weeks into the job.

But it’s more important to us to be accurate and reflect what was said. The Republican did not “predict” Boehner would lose his gavel. We regret that our story reflected that, even briefly.

Partial transcript:

Rep. Labrador: There is a hunger in the conference for bold, visionary leaders, and this is not just conservatives — you talk to more middle-of-the-road members of the conference, they’re kind of frustrated with the direction of this leadership, and they’re looking for ways to change that.

CQ Roll Call: Where does Eric Cantor fit in that?

Rep. Labrador: You know I have a great relationship with Eric, he and I have worked very well over the last three years. And I think he could provide that bold leadership, but he needs to be more open about it, more direct about what direction he wants to go.

CQ Roll Call: And what about John Boehner? Can he, you know, recreate himself once again?

Rep. Labrador: I don’t think so. I think John Boehner is who he is. And there some really good things about that. He’s a steady hand...

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