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Friday, January 28, 2005
Update/Correction on Bookswap Theft
Rebecca Brown of CalJunket has brought it to my attention that a previous report on CalStuff on the amount of money stolen at the Bookswap was inaccurate. The new estimate is that somewhere between $6,000 to $8,000 was stolen, not $10,000 to $30,000. That being said, Brown's condescending tone and own misstatements, in a post about accuracy in news reporting were completely unwarranted. CalStuff depends on the faith our reader's place in the accuracy of the information we provide, and I would like to respond to some of her specific claims. This post is lengthy, but it is a confusing topic, and I would like to set the record straight.
1) Brown states:
I hope that the good people of CalStuff and the Daily Californian will kindly explain that less than $8,000 was stolen from the Bookswap with as much fervor as these pseudo-sources claimed that $30,000 was stolen. [emphasis mine]CalStuff never reported that $30,000 was stolen. The references I made to the amount of money stolen was to say first "ASUC President Misha Leybovich has informed me that between 10,000 and 30,000 dollars were stolen." and then I added later, "I would imagine that to receive insurance for an event like the Bookswap you would have to promise not to leave a box contained 10,000 dollars sitting on Sproul complete unguarded." I never claimed that $30,000 was stolen.
2) Brown also said:
Andy in turn got this figure from Misha almost immediately after the theft was reported and before Misha had even had a moment to look at the receipts and envelopes.This is once again untrue. I first learned about the theft on Thursday night. I held off on posting at that time, because I could not find any reliable information on what had happened. I waited all through Friday as well, until I saw Misha at dinner that night. I spoke to him at that time, and according to Misha, it was still unclear the extent of the loss (this is more than 24 hours after the theft occurred.) Once again, I held off on posting. Mid-day Saturday I posted a brief comment breaking the news of the theft at the Bookswap, with no indication of how much money was stolen (because no one had yet given me an estimate). In fact, I specifically said, "I spoke with Misha a little while ago, and they are in the middle of figuring out how many books were exchanged, how much money was taken, and other details for the event. CalStuff will have an update later tonight with these details as they become available." I had no intention of throwing out wild estimates without taking the time for an accurate assessment.
Finally, after speaking to Misha again on Saturday, after he had spent a considerable amount of time going over the information available (and Misha can confirm that he along with others spent a considerable amount of time trying to ascertain the details of what had happened), I posted a report on CalStuff containing the estimate that he provided for me: "ASUC President Misha Leybovich has informed me that between 10,000 and 30,000 dollars were stolen."
My report on the estimate of what was stolen was not posted until over 48 hours after the theft occurred, not "almost immediately after the theft was reported and before Misha had even had a moment to look at the receipts and envelopes." as Rebecca claimed.
3) She then adds in a personal insult:
Less than a day after Andy had spoken with Misha, our office had been able to determine the more accurate and significantly lower figure. Thanks to laziness on behalf of both news outlets, the larger (and very wrong) number has been repeated to the extent that it has become popular "fact" among students, or at least among students who comment on CalStuff. [emphasis mine]Once again, I would dispute her charge. Between the time the theft occurred and when I reported the estimate of between $10,000 and $30,000, I attempted to find out information from sources at the Daily Cal (who were completely unhelpful at providing information to me), an ASUC source who provided me with some useful information, Misha, on multiple occasions, and I even had an IM conversation about the results of the Bookswap with Rebecca herself, although at the time she did not seem aware the theft had occurred (or else didn't want to reveal any information about it to me.)
The inclusion of an exaggerated estimate about the amount of money that was stolen was not based on laziness. The reason behind that mistake on CalStuff was that a source of mine (Misha) gave me inaccurate information about how much money was stolen. Being misled (completely without malice, I'm sure) by a source, is not laziness. I am glad to correct the record on this matter, as this post prominently does, but I think it is unfair of Rebecca to fault me for the inacurate information that appeared on CalStuff.
I would argue that if the information about how much money had actually been stolen was available so long ago, why did no one tell me? After this post, which contained my follow up thoughts to the Bookswap theft, I was done reporting on the story. Around that time, Rebecca is claiming that she was aware I had made a mistake in estimating the amount of money stolen. She also claims that Misha knew he had provided me with inaccurate information. As far as I can tell, she seems to be claiming I should follow up with the sources I use to report in order to make sure they haven't provided me with any misleading information.
I would argue the burden is on her and Misha to get the word out. CalStuff can print nearly instantaneous retractions/corrections (which I would be happy to do), and the Daily Cal could run a correction the next day. Instead, Misha never informed me that he had given me misleading information, and Rebecca did not inform me until over a week after the theft occurred that I had misstated the amount that was stolen.
She states, "CalStuff and the Daily Cal have an obligation to run follow-up articles that disclose the true numbers." as if that is something I would disagree with. I completely agree, I just don't understand why she waited so long to tell me that I had erred.
As far as disclosure goes, I'm largely in the same boat as Rebecca, as I'm a paid employee of the Daily Cal, and a friend of all the parties involved in this storyEmail This Post!
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