UPDATE: After the publication of this piece, CNN added an editor's note to the revised article:
“An earlier version of this story said that Hillary Clinton's decision to provide only printed copies -- as opposed to electronic copies -- of her emails would be harder and more expensive for the government to review. After our story was published, the State Department told CNNMoney that it is standard practice to print emails for review. As a result, that point was removed, and the headline was changed.”
CNN has quietly revised a sloppy report on the cost and difficulty of reviewing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails, adding to an increasing list of media outlets that have been forced to walk back over-hyped, seemingly-scandalous reports on the topic.
Clinton's emails have come under scrutiny because she used a personal email account, rather than an official government state.gov account, during her time at the State Department. This was legal and in line with State Department regulations at the time, but a misleading New York Times report has set off a media frenzy. Outlets seem desperate to find a scandal, which is leading them to publish stories before they have all the facts straight.
On March 11, CNN published an article (which is still available in its original version on Yahoo) noting that Clinton's emails have been submitted for review for public release as printed-out hard copies, rather than electronic documents. The article compares Clinton to trial lawyers engaging in a “data dump” that is designed “to slowdown opponents by drowning them in unorganized information that's difficult to comb through.” Elsewhere, CNN claimed of the printed emails (emphasis added):
By doing it that way, Clinton has made it harder and more expensive for the federal government to quickly review her emails and decide what's OK for the public and what's not.
As of this morning, however, this inaccurate sentence has been removed from the CNN article, and a key fact was added that was not in the original report (emphasis added):
[A] State Department official said that printing emails is common practice because they would have to print Clinton's emails in their normal review process.
The CNN article includes no mention that anything has been updated.
State Department regulations are very clear: all emails “warranting preservation as records ... must be printed out.” From the State Department Foreign Affairs Manual:
Until technology allowing archival capabilities for long-term electronic storage and retrieval of E-mail messages is available and installed, those messages warranting preservation as records (for periods longer than current E-mail systems routinely maintain them) must be printed out and filed with related records.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also explained this in her March 10 press briefing (the day before the CNN report was first posted). Psaki noted that the paper process was “standard” and had “long precedent,” and further explained, “The cost and work of reviewing Secretary Clinton's emails for release would've been roughly the same regardless of whether she had a state.gov email or a personal email and regardless of where her email was housed.”
Multiple outlets have walked back initial reports attempting to scandalize Clinton's email use. The New York Times public editor admitted that their first report, which sparked the increased scrutiny, “was not without fault.” The Associated Press, the Washington Post, and Politico have all also had to clarify crucial details.