How Wrong Can This Go On?

It was a bad day for the Oregonian Commentary page. In addition to the aforementioned Nielsen piece, they printed James Lileks’s Newhouse News Service editorial on the US Olympic Committee’s ban on flag-waving by athletes at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. It’s full of righteous vigor and indignation.

There’s just one problem.

The USOC says it never banned the practice.

The quotes Lileks uses appeared in a story in the Washington Times on May 15th which was attributed to a reporter for the London Sunday Telegraph. The USOC’s online statement refuting that article appeared on May 18th and was picked up by enough other news outlets that Google shows it for MSNBC, the Tucson Citizen, Channel 4 in Denver, the Kansas City Star, New York Newsday, the Palm Beach Post…oh, and an AP-hosted site.

Most of those outlets had the updated story by the 18th. The Oregonian probably did, too — I’m assuming it has an AP feed.

All it would have taken to validate (or not) this piece was for someone to type in their Web browser. I know it’s an opinion piece, but would they print it if it was an opinion about how horrible it was that the sky was pink, without looking out the window first? Where’s their fact-checking? Newhouse and Lileks are no better; the opinion piece is dated May 19, a day after the USOC press release.