Given all this, it’s difficult to untangle how much debate is still underway in the Wisconsin Democratic caucus. But one thing is pretty clear from all the confusion: The Journal was too strong in stating as fact that “Democrats to End Union Standoff”, and it overplayed the story for what it had nailed down.

Gawker’s Max Read has the funniest take on that, noting that the Journal reported that its source, Miller, “declined to say how soon the Democratic senators, who left for Illinois on Feb. 17, would return” and would come back only if certain issues are agreed on:

Ah. So, maybe a better headline would have been “Democrats Look at Returning to State Capitol, But Only After Addressing Several Issues”? Or—just to make it simpler—“Budget Standoff Continues.” Or, how about, “Same Shit Going on in Wisconsin Since Last Time You Checked.”

I would note that an earlier Journal headline hedged its bets, saying that “Wisconsin Democrats May Return Soon.” That piece, unlike the print version and the one being pushed online now, also quoted Miller:

“We are now looking at returning to the state capitol and requiring the senators to take a vote and have them declare who they’re with — the workers or the governor,” Mr. Miller said.

Note that that removed quote there says “we are now looking at returning.”

Somewhere along the way that quote got cut (perhaps for print space constraints, though it left the story with no quotes from Miller) and the headline got hyped up and turned into, effectively, “We will return to the state capitol soon.”

The first take was the better one.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.