The Washington Post is sticking with the Editor’s Note on that Taylor Lorenz story but won’t explain why (Update)

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple has a story up today about the corrections to that Taylor Lorenz story which was published last week. Most readers probably know the backstory already so I won’t rehearse it all but the brief version is that the story initially said two YouTubers mentioned by name had been contacted prior to publication. That claim was quickly removed and then two corrections were published. The last correction, which is still at the top of the story now, claims that only one of the YouTubers, a lawyer named Alyte Mazeika was contacted prior to publication. In essence, the Post is claiming their initial claim was half right since one of the two people were contacted.

But as I explained at length here, Alyte Mazeika has denied this publicly at least three times. She says the timestamps clearly show she was never contacted until after publication. And what’s really odd about all of this is that Taylor Lorenz, the author of the Post story, seems to agree. Last weekend in a thread explaining what happened she wrote, “After the story went live, I reached out to both YouTubers mentioned in that sentence just to be extra sure there wasn’t some sort of commentary they wanted to add.”

I asked the Post about this four days ago by email and they never responded to my questions. When Erik Wemple asked he was told the Post is sticking to the Editor’s Note as it stands but they wouldn’t explain why.

Hot Air’s John Sexton pointed out that by Lorenz’s own account, she didn’t contact either YouTuber for comment until after the story went live — a circumstance in conflict with the editor’s note, and which indicates that the request for comment to Mazeika occurred prior to publication via Instagram.

We’ve asked The Post for clarification on this point, because it matters: If The Post can’t nail down the facts in an editor’s note, where else should we trust it to do so? “That stands as is,” says a Post spokesperson. “We won’t be able to get into what the internal discussions were.”

It makes no sense to me. Again, there are timestamps showing the effort to contact Mazeika on Instagram (which is specified in the Editor’s Note) came after a previous effort to contact her on Twitter. Both happened after publication. “That was actually the last place where she tried to reach out to me after she had reached out on Twitter privately after I had already called her out,” Mazeika said on a YouTube show.

A few days ago the Daily Beast reported there were some people upset about all of this behind the scenes. The Daily Beast even identified the editor who added the initial parenthetical that started all of this.

Several heavy hitters at the paper have voiced their concerns to Executive Editor Sally Buzbee over Lorenz’s piece about content creators profiting off the Johnny DeppAmber Heard trial, which had to be updated no less than three times (including two editor’s notes), but the cock-up that has upset them may not have been entirely Lorenz’s fault, Confider has learned.

…it was Lorenz’s editor, Deputy Features Editor David Malitz, who dressed in a line that the two influencers had been contacted for comment when they had not—the result of a miscommunication between editor and reporter—that may now cost Malitz the plum features editor gig he was apparently about to be handed.

So Lorenz was telling the truth when she said the initial claim was added by an editor. I can accept that. I can even accept that it was a mistake that resulted from miscommunication. But from the start my questions were always about the corrections added to the story, including the one that’s still there now saying Alyte Mazeika was contacted on Instagram prior to publication.

People, including editors, make mistakes. Miscommunication happens. But after it has happened once and you’ve been forced to fix it, at that point I think anyone who is even halfway trying to do their job focuses very intently on getting the correction right. I misunderstood you? Okay, tell me exactly what happened.

I just can’t imagine that David Malitz winged it on that editor’s note. He must have talked to Taylor Lorenz prior to writing it. And somehow he still came away with the idea she’d contacted one of the two YouTubers prior to publication even though all the evidence available, including Lorenz’ own tweets, indicates that’s not what happened.

How is that possible?

I don’t know and no one at the Post will explain it but Erik Wemple added an update to his story noting that editor David Malitz seems to be in trouble.

On Thursday, members of The Post’s features staff held a meeting with Post Executive Editor Sally Buzbee, Senior Managing Editor Cameron Barr, Managing Editor of Diversity and Inclusion Krissah Thompson and Managing Editor of Digital News Kat Downs Mulder. At issue was a letter from features staffers citing an article in the Daily Beast identifying Deputy Features Editor David Malitz as the one who inserted the mistake about comment requests to YouTube content creators and reporting that the affair “may cost” Malitz a promotion to top features editor.

According to three sources at the meeting, one reporter pressed Buzbee on specifics, saying that colleagues had learned that Buzbee had offered Malitz the job on Thursday, June 2, and then rescinded the offer the following Monday. Buzbee, according to these sources, didn’t deny the timeline but insisted that Malitz was in no way punished for his mistake. Staffers who spoke at the meeting, according to the sources, were furious with Buzbee’s decision and asked whether it could be reversed. She was resistant to that suggestion, say the sources.

If the editor screwed up the initial claim and then corrected it in a way that violated Post policy (the story was stealth edited with no explanation) that’s a foul on his part. If that mistake hurt his career that’s bad news for him. But regardless, it appears to everyone outside that room that the current correction is still wrong. Shouldn’t that matter at least as much as the initial error?

I wish I could make all of this make sense but I can’t. I’m left wondering how the full story could possibly be worse than stonewalling, which does damage to Lorenz, to Malitz and to the Post’s reputation.

Update: Lorenz is tweeting about this again.

Here she seems to be going after another journalist but doesn’t use his name.

She’s already sparred with CNN’s Oliver Darcy so maybe that’s who she has in mind. Or maybe this is about the Erik Wemple story above? In that case she’d be attacking a fellow Post journalist. As we saw yesterday, you can be fired for that.

Either way, who is the “radicalized influencer” she’s talking about? If that’s ThatUmbrellaGuy or Alyte Mazeika, they are part of this because she included them in her own story. She amplified them in other words.

The other possibility, and I think it’s unlikely, is that she means me. I’m the only other critic mentioned in Wemple’s story. If I had to bet, I’d say she’s attacking Darcy (safe because he’s not a Post colleague) and ThatUmbrellaGuy (safe because he’s more clearly on the right). But who knows at this point. If it is me I promise to add “radicalized influencer” in my Twitter bio.

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