NPR issued a lengthy correction this week in a report on a pro-gun-control activist after a conservative media watchdog group claimed the story contained several inaccuracies.
The NPR article, titled "A Million-Mom Army And A Billionaire Take On The NRA," originally characterized noted anti-gun activist Shannon Watts as a "regular" stay-at-home mom who "had never done anything political before."
This is not exactly the case, as noted by the conservative watchdog group Newsbusters.
Watts is a public relations specialist with a long record of political activism, including financial contributions to President Obama and other Democratic lawmakers' campaigns.
Alerted to its dubious characterization of Watts, NPR updated the story so that it now carries a correction reading:
This report previously referred to Shannon Watts as one in a group of "regular people" who began advocating for stricter gun control measures in recent years. After the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., she created the "One Million Moms for Gun Control" Facebook page.
It later became "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America." We should have noted that Watts has a background in corporate communications.
From 1998 to mid-2012, she was a corporate communications executive or consultant at such companies as Monsanto and FleishmanHillard. Before that, Watts had what she says was a nonpolitical job as a public affairs officer in the Missouri state government.
Our report also stated that Watts had never "done anything political" before the shootings at Sandy Hook.
We should have noted that Federal Election Commission records show she began contributing money to Democratic campaigns and political action committees earlier in 2012. According to those records, she has made about $10,000 in such contributions, and about one-third were made before the Sandy Hook shootings.
There is a second update attached to the NPR article, which reads, "This story has been edited to reflect the information in this correction."
Newbusters took a victory lap after the corrections were added.
The problem with NPR's original story, according to the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, is that it used muddy and easy-to-challenge language to describe Watts.
"NPR's embarrassing brush with both sides of the gun debate should provide a bit of ammunition to journalism professors and editors around the country: Warn your people off the use of terms such as 'regular people' or 'average Americans.' No one knows what those terms mean — and when they come from news outlets lodged in large metropolises, it's a fair bet that they're laced with condescension," he wrote.
"As a motivated and educated woman who stays at home while performing chores, contract work or activism, yes, Shannon Watts has thousands and thousands of peers across the country. In its correction, NPR very nearly suggests that Watts' professional and family pursuits somehow place her outside of the pool of 'regular people.' Bag that term, and just explain who she is and what she has done."