Friday, I reported that Georgia lawmakers had gotten free tickets to every Atlanta Falcons home game this season. Two dozen lawmakers received tickets valued at $9630 from the Georgia World Congress Center, for Falcons and other games at the Georgia Dome. It was significant because the GWCC is asking the legislature to raise its bond limit so it can build a new stadium for the Falcons, partially funded by hotel-motel tax proceeds. It was a decent little enterprise piece to lead Friday’s evening newscast.
It also corrected an erroneous conclusion I’d made in a piece three days earlier.
In December, I interviewed GWCC director Frank Poe about the new stadium. Poe and Rich McKay of the Falcons have gone on a PR blitz of sorts, visiting news outlets to explain why it makes sense to tear down the 22-year old Georgia Dome and construct a billion-dollar replacement. When I interviewed Poe, I asked him about all the free ticket giveaways he’s done for lawmakers over the last two years. I saved that portion of the interview, knowing the Christmas holidays were upcoming. That’s typically a slow time in the news biz.
New Year’s Day, I fished out the Poe interview. I re-examined his Lobbyist Disclosure Forms, available online at the state Ethics Commission website. Poe had given away a gazillion tickets through the 2010-2011 legislative sessions. His disclosure form showed he’d given away zero tickets in the last six months of 2012.
New Year’s Day, I concluded my piece by saying that Poe’s latest disclosure “shows lawmakers have apparently stopped asking for free tickets.” Oops.
Later that week, a friendly source suggested that I check further. Previously, Poe’s disclosures had shown that he was the source of free tickets for lawmakers. Unbeknownst to me, another GWCC lobbyist named Stephanie Carter Kindregan assumed the role of playing Santa for lawmakers. When I examined her disclosure form Friday morning, it was rather breathtaking — both in its revelation of how shameless lawmakers ponied up for freebies, and in its revelation of how wrong I’d been three days earlier.
“Technically, you were correct,” the source helpfully noted, pointing out my attribution to Poe’s disclosure form. It was a sin of omission, however, which gave viewers a very incorrect impression.
Fortunately, near as I can tell, no other news media had reported the lawmaker ticket bonanza based on Kindregan’s report. Friday’s story was still a decent scoop.
I’d much rather correct my own flawed information than have it done for me by a competitor.