ABC News Reposts Online Story About Tony Scott. New, Replacement Story Has Headline 'Tony Scott Brain Cancer Report Appears in Doubt.' Original Story at Same URL Had Headline: ' 'Top Gun' Director Tony Scott Had Inoperable Brain Cancer.' ABC News
[Upated on Aug. 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm (PT) to include ABC News comments in response to this article]
By Chuck Ross
ABC News has reposted a news story that was widely picked up by other news organizations and websites -- including TVWeek -- yesterday, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.
ABC News' original posting carried the headline, " 'Top Gun' Director Tony Scott Had Inoperable Brain Cancer."
In a move that exhibited no transparancy, ABC News chose not to update that story, but, instead, using the same URL, replaced the alreadly posted and widely picked up story with a second story.
This second story has this headline, "Tony Scott Brain Cancer Report Appears in Doubt."
Oddly, however, while the headline says the report is in doubt, that is not mentioned in the story itself. The second story itself simply says:
1) The Scott family was not aware of any brain cancer that Tony Scott may have had, according to what the L.A. Assistant Coroner told ABC's L.A. O&O, KABC.
2) ABC News was unable to contact the Scott family to confirm the Assistant Coroner's statement.
3) ABC News reported earlier that Scott had inoperable brain cancer "citing a source close to Scott."
The report also says Scott was identified by the Los Angeles Coroner's Office as the individual who jumped off a bridge to his death.
This second story is also remarkable in several other ways. Did ABC News go back and re-interview the "source close to Scott" in light of what the Assistant Coroner said? If not, why not. If so, what did the source say in light of the Assistant Coroner's remarks?
Furthermore, how close to Scott was this ABC News source? Readers need some more description here. Was the person "a source who was a medical professional and was in a position to know Scott's medical condition." Or "a source who was a drinking buddy of Scott's whom Scott confided to in a bar one day last week." Or???? The reader needs a way to judge for himself or herself whether this source was in a position to know Scott's medical condition, but the reader is only given the vague description "a source close to Scott."
Furthermore, reading just the copy of the second story (and ignoring the headline, which may have been written by someone not having anything to do with the reportage of the story), it seems to us here at TVWeek that it's fair to say that ABC News has not, in fact, backed down at all from its original story. Instead, it has simply added the Assistant Coroner's remarks and noted that it hadn't been able to ask the Scott family about those remarks.
We have asked ABC News all these questions. As soon as we hear back from ABC News we will update this report.
ABC News has responded to TVWeek's questions. Here's the response, emailed to us from an ABC News spokesperson:
"ABC News continues to report the most recent facts on ABCNews.com, including our previous reporting and the conflicting statement from the coroner. ABC News is attempting to reach Scott's family to confirm the assistant chief coroner's statement. After speaking with the family or a representative of the family we will update our reporting accordingly. If it comes to light at that time that incorrect information was reported, ABC News will issue a full retraction and apology." [The link to the story at ABCNews.com in the statement was provided by ABCNews.]