Premature Evaluation: Free Beacon Completely Botches Scoop on TIME Person of the Year
The Washington Free Beacon rolled out a big scoop on Tuesday night: TIME was planning to give the whistleblower behind the Trump-Ukraine scandal and the impeachment witnesses who backed his complaint with their Person of the Year award — but the conservative news site’s exclusive was so big that it was even news to the magazine, who actually gave the coveted year-end title to youth climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“TIME magazine will name the anonymous federal employee whose whistleblower report set off President Donald Trump’s impending impeachment its 2019 Person of the Year, the Washington Free Beacon has learned,” the outlet falsely reported in an article penned by Free Beacon executive editor Brent Scher, which was released just hours before Time announced on Wednesday morning that Thunberg was, in fact, the winner. “The whistleblower himself never emerged publicly to tell his story, and the publication will also honor the civil servants who came forward to testify before Congress about the events described in his report.”
Mediaite reached out to the Free Beacon but did not receive a statement. Roughly an hour after TIME officially named Thunberg as their POTY, the site issued an editor’s note attached to the top of the piece acknowledging their mistake: “This piece incorrectly stated that the whistleblower and civil servants who testified during impeachment were to be named TIME’s Person of the Year. They were instead named TIME’s ‘Guardians of the Year,’ a new designation in an expanded set of awards granted in 2019.”
The site’s editor-in-chief and former Politico reporter Eliana Johnson took to Twitter to promote the botched scoop.
TIME Set to Name Whistleblower, Impeachment Witnesses as ‘Person of the Year’ https://t.co/5nCUX0DJB5
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) December 11, 2019
The Free Beacon did reach out to TIME about the story prior to publishing the erroneous article but received no official comment. The site also listed “other nominees in contention for this year’s title” as “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, the Hong Kong protesters, and President [Donald] Trump.”
Instead of Person of the Year, TIME named “public servants” — namely, those involved in the whistleblower’s complaint and other government officials who have appeared before Congress to testify on impeachment matters — as their “Guardians of the Year.”
Scher owned up to his reporting mistake on Twitter.
Got this one wrong.
Time created a new honor for the whistleblower, who was named one of its “Guardians of the Year.” First time mag has expanded beyond “Person of the Year” in its end of year awards. My bad everyone. https://t.co/IUqZIQe1UN
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) December 11, 2019
UPDATE: This post has been updated to include the Free Beacon and Scher’s corrections.
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