The president of the University of Pennsylvania's student newspaper said he and the paper's staff are thoroughly examining their workflow in the wake of retracting a controversial and apparently inaccurate story about the GOP presidential race.
The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP) posted a story on Feb. 20 with a video of Florida senator Marco Rubio pointing at a Bible being read by a Ted Cruz staffer in a South Carolina hotel and commenting, according to subtitles they added to the video, "Not many answers in it."
Ted Cruz' top spokesman Rick Tyler shared the story the next day on social media, and shortly after got kicked out of the Cruz campaign for participating in criticizing another candidate on faith issues, Cruz said. Meanwhile, Rubio said the subtitles were a misinterpretation of the audio from the video.
The DP first stripped the video of the subtitles before retracting the entire post. The DP has since posted a timeline of how this issue occurred.
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"We are trying to be self-reflective about what happened, and we do take the thing very seriously, so we’re trying to learn from it as much as we can but at the same time be supportive of each other," said Colin Henderson, 20, a junior at UPenn and president of the DP. "It's good that we're being held accountable for something like this."
No DP writers are currently covering the presidential primaries.
The student leaders of the DP, an independent student newspaper that was first published in 1885, are now reaching out to alumni in professional media and planning to conduct a "detailed post mortem," Henderson said.
According to the DP's timeline of events, after they shot the video of Rubio talking to Cruz staffer Christian Collins -- who was seated beside Cruz' father Rafael Cruz -- they added subtitles with Rubio's comments based on multiple people's opinions agreeing on what Rubio said. No one knew the book in question was the BIble, the DP said.
DP staffers later ran into Collins, showed him the video with subtitles, and said he did "not comment" on the transcript.
"A Cruz staffer saw the video, obviously he did not explicitly approve or deny what was said, but definitely saw the video and asked for the link," Henderson said.
The DP post started going viral on Feb. 21, as some on social media started questioning the accuracy of the subtitles.
Tyler deleted the post off his social media, emailed the DP telling them the post was "discredited" and that 'according to our staffer [Collins] who Rubio spoke to, he said that 'there are a lot of answers in that book.'"
"Later in the night we got an email from Mr. Tyler claiming that Cruz staffer denied the legitimacy of the subtitles. That's all we know for certain at this point," Henderson said.
The DP sent its students to cover the GOP primary in part because of the candidacy Donald Trump, an alumnus of UPenn's Wharton School fo Business, but also as an educational experience for the journalists.
Now they've learned what it's like to be at the center of a political maelstrom.
"We hear all sorts of things on the internet," Henderson said. "The staff know what voices out there are legitimate and to take extremely seriously, and which ones not to and which ones you can take with a grain of salt."