POLITICO FALLOUT

For the second time in two weeks, the recently launched Politico.com website, which has partnered with CBS News for political coverage, has found itself having to backtrack after issuing what appeared to be poorly sourced reports. On Thursday, it reported that Sen. John Edwards had decided to suspend his presidential campaign after learning that his wife had been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer. The report was quickly picked up by other media outlets before it was quashed by Edwards himself, who declared, "The campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly." The writer of the original Politico.com article, Ben Smith, quickly posted a message titled "Getting It Wrong," and apologized for not getting a second source for his story. On the CBS blog Public Eye, CBSNews.com political editor, which ran the story as its lead, commented, "While The Politico is an editorial partner of CBSNews.com, we should not have run breaking news of this nature that had not been independently verified by CBS News and will be careful not do so in the future." Only last week, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric led off with a report by correspondent Jim Axelrod that "our partners at Politico.com" were predicting that "it is inevitable that [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzalez will be fired" and that "officials at the request of the White House have begun interviewing successors." In a commentary posted on the Columbia Journalism Review's website, writer Gal Beckerman observed, "The bigger problem has to do with the Internet itself. By giving the impression that everything is immediately correctable, it lowers accountability, making it seem okay to take risks -- like basing a story on one source. If a website like Politico wants to be taken seriously, it has to live by the same rigorous standards that most news organizations live and die by."

ESPN LEADS IN SPORTS EMMY NODS

As usual, ESPN dominated nominations for Sports Emmy Awards announced Thursday by the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. ESPN received 26 nominations, but NBC, thanks in large part to its coverage of the 20th annual Winter Olympics, was close behind with 24 nods. HBO came in third with 16 nominations (five of them for Real Sports With Bryan Gumbel), followed by CBS with 14, Fox with 13, and ABC with 10. Winners are due to be announced at ceremonies in New York on April 30.

ABC NEWS CHIEF SURPRISED BY GIBSON ASCENDANCY

ABC News President David Westin has acknowledged that when Katie Couric took over as anchor of The CBS Evening News at about the same time that Charles Gibson took over the reins of ABC's World News, he tried to prepare his news staff for at least a temporary drop in ratings. "I said, 'We will suffer because of this [Couric's debut], our ratings will go down. Be prepared for several months of this.' I was wrong," Westin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In fact, the opposite occurred. Gibson, the newspaper observed, "finds himself headlining one of the more intriguing comeback stories going," as his program has taken the lead in the evening news competition. Professor Robert Thompson, who comments on popular culture at Syracuse University, noted that at first all eyes were on Couric. "Then before you knew it, ABC seemed to inhabit this territory that network news seems completely unable to conquer, which is 'America's newscast.'"

THE SUER IS SUED

Three Internet activist groups have sued Viacom, charging that it improperly forced YouTube to delete a clip from Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. MoveOn.org, Civic Action, and Brave New Films claimed that posting of the clip was protected under "fair use" rules of copyright law. Earlier this month, Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, demanded that YouTube remove 150,000 clips of shows and movies for which it holds the copyrights and sued the website for $1 billion. However, a Viacom attorney, Michael Fricklas, responded to the suit by denying that the company had asked that the clip be removed. The Associated Press quoted from a letter that Fricklas sent to the plaintiffs, saying "Viacom has no problem with your client's continued use of [the clip] on its website or on YouTube."

SHOWTIME SERIES TO BE PREVIEWED ONLINE

Viacom-owned pay-TV channel Showtime announced Thursday that it has posted the first two episodes of its upcoming period drama The Tudors on the video website Brightcove, a YouTube rival. The episodes will be available for viewing even before they air on the Showtime channel.

IDOL VS. DANCING

In an apparent effort to prevent ABC's Dancing With the Stars from bringing down House, Fox next Tuesday will extend American Idol seven minutes, thereby competing against Dancing during the overrun. Although Fox said that House will not be shortened because of the overrun, it was not clear whether the drama would run past 10:00 p.m., when local programming takes over on Fox stations, whether seven minutes of commercials would be deleted, or whether a tighter script has been shot for House. In any case, viewers planning to watch one show while automatically TiVoing the other would be advised to adjust their digital recorders accordingly.

Brian B.