Editor's Note

After broadcasting "The Spill," we heard from the office of Deputy Secretary Hayes at the Department of Interior. They complained that, in response to a question posed by correspondent and co-producer Martin Smith, an answer from a later exchange with Deputy Secretary Hayes had been edited in.

Reviewing the sequence, we determined that this, indeed, had happened. We asked Smith to reconstruct how this came about, and this is what he told us:

"Initially, as we cut the sequence, my question was followed by Mr Hayes' first answer and then combined with a later answer to a similar question, in order to help flesh out the Secretary's position.  This is a standard editorial decision in editing down a complex exchange for television.
"Later, however, in the last part of a very tight production schedule, the first answer was dropped. We were editing for clarity and sharpness, but also to fit the time constraints of the one-hour broadcast, and a late-night decision led to this error of judgment.
"We did not set out to be anything less than fair to the Deputy Secretary's position. But because both the question and the answers dealt with the same basic issue - how the Department deals with companies with bad safety and environmental records- it appeared at the time to be acceptable. I did not intend in any way to misrepresent Deputy Secretary Hayes' views."

FRONTLINE's editors agree that the edit was a mistake and not in keeping with our journalistic practices, and we regret it. We have corrected the error and replaced the sequence with the first question and answer. This version is now posted on our web site, and will be included in any future broadcasts.

We believe that the original broadcast offered a fair representation of Deputy Secretary Hayes' position for our television audience. (You can read an independent review of this matter prepared by the PBS Ombudsman.)

For those interested in the extended version of Deputy Secretary Hayes' interview with producer/correspondent Martin Smith, we published the transcript on our web site on the night of the original broadcast—a commitment to transparency that we've maintained for more than 15 years.


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posted october 26, 2010

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