Some stories are too good to be true, so when I saw Gawker’s report that CNN had solicited pitches for the “good side of the oil spill,” (h/t Media Matters), I couldn’t resist lining up a barrage of Monty Python jokes. As it turns out, though, the story isn’t true. The email is real, but according to our reporting, it didn’t come from anyone who works for CNN.
The email in question originates from HARO, a website that connects reporters with expert sources. Here’s what Gawker printed:
1) Summary: The Good Side of the Oil Spill
Name: Gary Hewing (CNN)
Category: Biotech and Healthcare
Media Outlet: CNN
Deadline: 04:00 PM EST – 2 June
Looking for pitches: The Good Side of the Oil Spill – if there is
A CNN spokesman had harsh words for Gawker and company, telling Mediaite:
Gary Hewing is not a CNN employee – and never has been. He is not working on CNN’s behalf and should not be identified as such.
It is a real shame that sites like Media Matters, Gawker and Washington Monthly never bothered to check the facts before posting stories such as these.
Things get a little bit complicated from here, but the bottom line is that this solicitation is not connected with CNN in any way. Gary Hewing, whose Twitter handle is CNNGary, doesn’t work for CNN. His Twitter bio lists CNN Radio, and links to the website for KIKK radio in Houston, which calls itself “CNN650.” I guess with that many Ks in their name, who can blame them?
Their relationship to CNN, however, is unclear. CNN told us:
“CNN has taken action in regards to a radio station that brands itself ‘CNN 650 Houston’ however we do not know if Gary Hewing is affiliated with that radio station.”
I spoke to a staffer at the station, who told me that they “used to be a CNN station, but they kept the name.” They are now owned by CBS Radio.
Gary Hewing, it turns out, is co-owner of Bert Martinez Communications, which the KIKK staffer told me purchases airtime on the station to run The Bert Martinez Show. I also spoke briefly with Bert Martinez, who told me that Hewing is a booker for several shows on CNN 650.
So, much like the “CNN stringer” that Sarah Palin lashed out at over divorce rumors, it looks like this was a case of someone capitalizing on a tenuous connection to CNN in order to get people to call him back faster. There’s nothing really wrong with that. Even though I freelance for several websites, I always identify with the outlet that will give me the best chance of a call back. There’s no reason to think that Hewing has any inkling of the dispute between CNN and KIKK regarding use of the name and logo.
As for Gawker, they should have checked. HARO is kind of like a dating website for journalists and sources, so the emails that are generated depend heavily on the users themselves for accuracy.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org