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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