A minor blogging scandal erupted Saturday afternoon when the NY Times' awards blogger David Carr (aka "The Bagger") called the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for James Strouse's film Grace is Gone, more than three hours prior to the awards ceremony. According to Carr:
Big news from Sundance: The Bagger has just heard, from a proverbial well-placed source, that “Grace Is Gone,” by first-time director James Strouse and starring John Cusack, has won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film.
The leak of the winner of the Grand Jury Prize, had it been correct, would have caused an uproar in itself. Outside of the five-person jury, which this year included Mos Def, director Catherine Hardwicke, Film Independent head Dawn Hudson, editor Pamela Martin and actress Sarah Polley, only a few top Sundance programmers and staffers know the winners of the prizes.
That the NY Times, even in its "the hell with rules" blogging format, would go with a single person source (however "well-placed") to trumpet advance knowledge of a film festival prize, is questionable as well.
But most troubling to me, both as a former journalist and a sometimes blogger, is that the Times scrubbed the entry from its regular blog once it was found to be false. While you can still, as of this moment, link to the original post, if you check the archives for Saturday, the post is completely gone.
And overnight until Sunday morning, there was not a word on the Bagger's site. But Indiewire's James Isreal had seen the original post, grabbed a screen capture and posted to his own site with the headline:
NYT's Carpetbagger Gets It Wrong about Sundance Winner
By Sunday morning, Bagger linked to Isreal's blog post and had a mea culpa:
The Bagger posted an item yesterday afternoon that “Grace Is Gone” had won the Grand Jury Prize, based on information from a very reliable source. Oops. It is nice to be first, but better to be right.
The Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic feature actually went to “Padre Nuestro,” a well-received feature about the quest for a new life in America and the search for a long, lost and muy rico father. “Grace” won the audience award and a screenwriting award.
The Bagger and David Carr, the journalist who is supposed to be watching his back, regret jumping the gun.
For the record, the Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business blog, another favorite of mine, also linked to the Bagger's post AND also took down all traces of their post linking to Carr's incorrect post. As of this writing, you can still find the link to the Hollywood Reporter's post here (via google search) as well as on this news feed, although the link itself (which was headlined Grace is Gone Wins Sundance Grand Jury Prize) is now "Not Found". As of this writing, there has been no correction.
As a sometimes blogger, I don't want to get into ethics and procedures and all that, but I think it's pretty typical that should one make a mistake, you either post a correction in a second post (leaving the first stand as evidence of the mistake) or you strike out the mistake and put the correct information next to it. Something like this:
Bignews from Sundance: The Bagger has just heard, from a proverbial well-placed source, that “Grace Is Gone,” by first-time director James Strouse and starring John Cusack,Padre Nuestro has won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film.
Removing posts in their entirety when they turn out to be wrong seems amiss in the blogging world, particularly when you are talking about the NY Times and the Hollywood Reporter - two publications that are instantly linked, fed and serviced all over the internet. And while I appreciate Carr's correction Sunday morning, the scrubbing of the post that started it all can only lead one to wonder what might have happened if James Isreal and Indiewire hadn't preserved the evidence.