The Hockey News is a wonderful magazine. They employ a number of fine writers and reporters, generally walking the line of opinion and fact much the same way all sportswriters do. I am a subscriber, and a new one at that. I have generally only read the magazine for draft news and the Future Watch edition, but I know THN is a widely respected source for hockey news.
That is, until today.
THN ran a retraction and an apology today to Wild owners Craig Leipold and Phil Falcone. I admit fully and up front, I missed the article that was run that made the retraction necessary, but as with all things internet, deleting the post does not make it go away. A retraction and apology do not make it go away. This is 2011, and making a mistake lives on forever.
Make the jump and let's look at what happened, what got us here, and what happens next.
The original article ran June 9th, on THN's website, and to be brutally honest, accused Leipold and Falcone of some serious crimes. Now, a reporter has the duty to report news such as this... so long as it is true, and so long as they have rock hard evidence to support it. We would certainly be talking the other way had THN not run it and it turned out to be true, right?
However, Ken Campbell, someone with bone fide journalistic credentials, ran a story using the all too available "anonymous sources" to run a quote that reads:
Falcone is reportedly experiencing a number of business troubles, but the most prominent of them is the SEC inquiry into "market manipulation." The source said the investigation around Falcone centers around issues that, if they turn out to be true, "would make William 'Boots' Del Biaggio look like a choirboy."
(Del Biaggio, you may recall, was found guilty of fraud and imprisoned in 2009 for using forged financial documents to obtain $110 million in loans from several banks and two NHL owners, some of which he used to purchase a 27 percent stake in the Nashville Predators.)
Del Biaggio is currently in prison, if memory serves correctly.
Before the above quote, Campbell lays out the supposed crimes of the Minnesota Wild ownership:
Falcone, who is believed to be the money behind the Wild's ownership, bought a 40 percent stake in the team in April 2008 for somewhere between $60 million and $70 million and it's believed he loaned about the same amount to help Leipold purchase his majority stake in the franchise. About two months later, an investigation was reportedly opened by the SEC on Falcone and while the SEC rarely tips its hand on investigations, it's believed this one could be close to a conclusion.
Let's be clear on a couple things, OK? Craig Leipold has plenty of money. He made his own fortune, and then married into the Johnson family, better known to the world as SC Johnson. To drop common sense by the wayside and say that Leipold needed a loan to purchase the Minnesota Wild seems disingenuous at best, and could be civilly liable at worst.
In the world where Eklund can run fake rumors from anonymous sources and make money off of it, it is difficult to believe that libel and slander still exist, but they do. And they are not fun for an organization and reporter to refute or come back from. The one thing journalists value more than anything is their reputation. Fair and accurate. They have to be, other wise, they are Eklund on a grander stage.
To their credit, THN did issue the retraction and apology:
The Hockey News deeply regrets and retracts the publication of its June 9, 2011 story entitled: "Source: Craig Leipold to acquire additional 40 percent of Minnesota Wild if minority owner Philip Falcone forced out." The story appeared on thehockeynews.com.
The story was erroneous concerning the proceedings of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the SEC's plans or decisions with respect to Mr. Falcone or his company, Harbinger. We were also incorrect as to Mr. Falcone's business plans and the potential sale of his minority ownership in the Wild and in stating that Mr. Falcone loaned Mr. Leipold the money with which he bought his interest in the Wild.
Our comparison of Mr. Falcone to other NHL team owners with legal problems was unfounded and wrong.
The parties mentioned in the story were not contacted to verify the information in the article prior to publication and we are sorry.
We apologize to Mr. Leipold, Mr. Falcone and our readers.
The story does not reflect the high journalistic standards applied by The Hockey News. Measures have been taken to ensure those standards continue to be upheld.
And to his credit, via Mike Russo, Craig Leipold issued a statement in response to the retraction and apology:
I am so pleased The Hockey News is offering a full retraction and apologizing for their web article written by Ken Campbell late last week that included a number of gross inaccuracies regarding Wild minority owner Philip Falcone and his ownership stake.
The lack of journalistic integrity and responsibility displayed by Mr. Campbell is unacceptable. The story included a number of statements that were just completely false.
If you will notice, no where in there does Mr. Leipold say that this is the end of the matter. Campbell opened a major can of worms by calling out two multi-billionaires, and you can bet these two gentlemen did not appreciate having their names dragged through the mud, even if the article was pulled. We have not heard the last of this story, folks.
What it Means
Whether or not Ken Campbell has a career left is for the readers to decide. If people trust his word after this, that is their decision, and the market with bear out. Whether or not he has a job with The Hockey News is up to the editor-in-chief of THN. It is not our place to pass judgement on his career, but with the story still available online (and will be forever), Campbell's mistake certainly proves one thing:
Any clown with a computer can post whatever they want.
stick tap to Greg Wyshynski for bringing the retraction to my attention, and to Russo for being all over the story yet again.
Editor's note: the original text identified Mr. Leipold's wife's company as Johnson & Johnson. It is, in fact, SC Johnson. We apologize for that error.