SO HERE IT IS, MY LINE BY LINE RESPONSE TO TUESDAY’S STORY

“the universal website for corrections to lies, misinformation and misrepresentations.”

Earlier this week, the New York Times and I wrote about my favorite new website, ICorrect.com, which allows members like me to correct “lies, misinformation and misrepresentations” in the media. I received an outpouring of support, and then on Tuesday, lo and behold, the New York Observer ran a “story” that wasn’t even amusingly snarky, it was downright sadistic.

What’s more, it was full of new misrepresentations to correct. Sadly, as you’ll see in my rebuttal below, the paper made no attempt to contact me before publication and instead, appears to have relied on the clairvoyance of a young staff member who somehow knows what I think.

Yesterday the reporter, who we’ll call Kat, acknowledged her poor form in making a “case study” out of me without ever attempting to contact me. In an e-mail at 6:36:05 last night, she offered to run a response from me, which I prepared right away. But Kat has ignored all the e-mails I’ve sent her since. What to do? Sounds like a job for ICorrect and dailyXpress, so here’s what the NY Observer didn’t print.

To make it easy to understand, I have structured this version as dialog: “NYO” is the verbatim copy in full, “SR” is my line by line rebuttal seen here in red. (Of course, you can also link to ICorrect.com.)

Former ‘GMA‘ Producer Shelley Ross Resurfaces, Reminds Us of Her Embarrassments

April 4, 2011 | 12:50 p.m. By Kat Stoeffel

NYO: We hadn’t heard of former Good Morning America executive producer Shelley Ross until yesterday, and she would probably prefer we never did.

SR: As one of only a handful of women executive producers in network news, (there were only 2 of us to exec produce any of the daily network morning shows in the last 25 years) most media reporters know who I am. I would prefer you were more knowledgable about your beat.

NYO: Ms. Ross was featured in a Sunday Times round-up of ICorrect.com, which Ms. Ross pays $1,000 a year for the space to post rebuttals to what she sees as inaccuracies in blog and newspaper items lingering around the infinitely archiving web.

SR: I have posted not just what I “see,” but what I can prove are lies, inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

NYO: Ms. Ross is mostly worried about coverage of her dismissal from CBS,

SR: Since no one ever contacted me from the NY Observer, how would anyone know what items worry me most. (Clairvoyance?)

NYO: …which was documented with audible snickering by the Post, New York Magazine, and even the Times.

SR: “documented with audible snickering?” Well that one’s just too darn hard to answer.

NYO: “I was recently shown proof that two stories in particular, from 2007 and 2008, have been manipulated to reappear on the first page of my Google Search,” Ms. Ross wrote on her personal blog. Invoking Sarah Palin, Ms. Ross refers to the anonymous detractors as “blood bloggers,” calls ICorrect her “BFF,” and hopes it becomes as popular as the yellow pages. We hope she’s not holding her breath.

SR: Just curious, speaking as “we” are you speaking for the entire paper? There’s just one name on the byline.

NYO: So far it’s unclear what ICorrect offers celebrities beyond what they could accomplish on Facebook or personal websites.

SR: ICorrect offers a succinct and organized reference site with solid templates for those of us who have suffered the impact of lies, sexist characterizations and twisted truths to post corrections so we don’t have to waste time or energy repeatedly addressing the offending material.

NYO: ICorrect doesn’t require citations, which would at least give the rebuttals some legitimacy,

SR: ICorrect requires its members to have a legal representative or a professional agent for verification. In my own corrections I have included citations and Nielsen research which verify my rebuttals. It is impossible, however, to provide eyewitnesses, for instance, to a tantrum or meltdown that never occurred.

NYO: …and it’s algorithmically weak.

SR: Again, the purpose was not to crack the first page of my Google search, but to place the truth on the record for interested parties to find.

NYO: ICorrect has yet to crack Ms. Ross’s first page of Google results. To rig that requires a little more web savvy…

SR: …which is something about which you must know since this nasty little article in the NYO, which says in the headline that I’ve “resurfaced,” cracked page one of my Google search in just hours. (Hey, Kat, I’ve never been away, but how would someone who has never heard of me know that?) Cracking page one of my Google search so quickly is quite a feat since the NY Observer ranks far below the NY Times in Google’s algorithm for authority, subscriptions and unique online browsers Maybe someone you know, or perhaps the person who suggested this article to you, has been “gaming” Google to get your article on my first page. Compared to my own articles, yours traveled at the speed of light to the top of my search. Even with 100,ooo hits in the first week online at Newsweek, “Sarah Palin: the 7 Hidden Messages in her New Reality Show” took months to get to my front page. It now looks as though the NYO piece will bump my the news that the latest (third) edition of a medical book I co-authored with a professor of clinical neurology, was selected for the launch of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s new online website, Sharecare. Yes, it is a shame this NYO story moves real accomplishments down.

NYO: …or a custom consulting service, which costs more like $10,000 a month, as Ms. Ross knows if she flipped to the Style section of the same New York Times.

SR: Thanks for the tutorial on reading the Times, but as you know, I addressed downside of high cost consulting services in my previous blog.

NYO: “Once something is online, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to delete.

SR: Then why don’t you do the right thing and delete your post?

NYO: So tweaking one’s online reputation usually boils down to gaming the search engines. Image-conscious people with an understanding of the Web’s architecture can try doing it themselves, by populating the Web with favorable content. That might involve setting up their own Web site or blog, or signing up for popular social networks like Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn,” the Times wrote. So far correction has proven a much weaker spin strategy than burial. Ms. Ross’s ICorrect have only drawn more ironic, if not outright mocking, attention, and led newcomers like yours truly to read up on years-old media beef we would have never otherwise seen.

SR: Ms. Stoeffel’s column is the only place that’s been “outright mocking,” a sad commentary for a media reporter so recently promoted from intern, as noted her November announcement: (Citation: Village Voice, November 29, 2010: “Breaking: The New York Observer Hires Kat Stoeffel, a Lady! A Media Reporter Lady! “ which includes a “Memo from Aaron Gell, subject: Welcome Kat!” Note to Aaron: you need to help Kat learn the recent history of network news and protect her from sources who slip the Observer stories like this one, and the one slipped to her predecessor, Felix Gillette. And one other point: it is naive to consider this effort “tweaking” one’s online reputation. Truth is never a spin strategy, it’s a non-negiotiable prinicple to honor.

NYO: Does anyone ever come out of a defensive internet campaign with their reputation redeemed?

SR: First, I wouldn’t call the action of setting the record straight a “campaign.” To more specifically answer your question about redemption, too bad you can’t ask it of Richard Jewell. If you’ve never heard of him either, in 1996 he was a security guard falsely identified as Atlanta’s Olympic bomber. It was a really big story as reported: a nutjob in a uniform who planted a bomb in a backpack so he could find it and be hailed as a hero. It turned out Jewell was, in fact, a real hero, a humble security guard who probably saved more than a hundred lives. In the end, he sued all the news organizations who repeated or embellished false stories from their anonymous FBI sources. He even collected gigantic sums of money from some. You see, publishing a lie with malicious intent or reckless disregard for the truth is against the law. (Contacting your subject in advance certainly diminishes your risk.)

NYO: Can a rebuttal be vivid enough to record over the tabloid hit piece in the collective memory? Not if they keep getting anecdotes like this:

SR: I wasn’t trying to be vivid, but I’ll do my best with your selection below:

NYO: After CBS fired Ms. Ross, a colleague from her previous job at ABC, Charlie Gibson, reportedly muttered at a funeral they both attended over the weekend, “It took us six years to get rid of her. How come it only took them five months?”

SR: This item in particular is not an item that brings any embarrassment to me at all, as you suggest in your headline. This item only brings shame to Charlie Gibson who has never apologized for, or retracted the disgraceful comments he uttered during a profoundly sad funeral service. He did however, through a spokesman at the time, express his regret that his comments were repeated.To really get the picture of how truly disgusting it was to learn that anyone sat gossiping during this funeral service, let alone a person in such a position of leadership and authority, you first have to know who was being eulogized. James Bogdanoff was a beloved colleague with whom I had worked many years at ABC News. He started out in the tape department; I was a already a seasoned producer for PrimeTime Live. Years later, when I became executive producer of Good Morning America, I asked James to be the late night producer, a key job with the tremendous responsibility to troubleshoot all the last-minute scripts, videos and details of the show, plus handle overnight breaking news. He handled the job with humor and grace. James was only 47 when lost his 4-month battle with esophageal cancer, leaving behind a young wife, an 8-year-old daughter and two 20-something nephews he had raised. The nephews had lost both their parents just nine months apart and on this day, they stood before a packed house of mourners who had gathered to honor James and recalled the moment their young uncle sat on their bed and gently asked their permission to move into their house and look after them. This funeral was as excruciating as it gets. So it’s not difficult to imagine the horror of the family and friends first hearing that James’ funeral made Page Six, only to read Charlie Gibson’s cheap gossip remark. So, Kat, I hope I proved you wrong; I hope you find this rebuttal vivid enough to record over any tabloid hit piece in the collective memory. I believe the facts in my other corrections, albeit less vivid, will be as indelible.

kstoeffel@observer.com :: @kstoeffel


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