Washington Post Brushes Off Clinton Email Reporting Error: “Mistakes Are Made”

The Washington Post does not plan to change its policy on anonymous sourcing despite a major reporting mistake on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails.

On March 27, the paper published an extensive front-page story on “How Clinton's email scandal took root.” The article originally claimed, “One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey.”

After a wide range of outlets trumpeted the detail about the “one hundred forty-seven” agents, the Post issued a correction to its story, noting, “Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. ...  the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.”

Asked by Media Matters whether the Post planned to review its policy on the use of anonymous sources in light of the error, deputy managing editor Tracy Grant said via email that even with good reporting and vetting, “mistakes are made and when that happens we correct quickly and completely.” Grant added that the paper does not think the error warrants an overhaul of sourcing procedures:

"The Washington Post's policy on confidential sourcing states clearly that we prefer named sources over unnamed sources, but it also acknowledges that sometimes people will only speak on the condition of anonymity. Nothing is published from an unnamed source without at least one editor knowing who that source is. In this case, two senior editors knew who the sources were. Sometimes, despite rigorous reporting and vetting, mistakes are made and when that happens we correct quickly and completely as we did in this circumstance. We are always open to looking at our procedures for ensuring the integrity of our journalism, but this case does not cause us to feel that a policy change is necessary."

Post executive editor Martin Baron did not respond to a request for comment.