The Internet did it for him.
Tuesday morning, the New York Post distributed to newsstands and posted on its Web site a front page story proclaiming Rep. Richard Gephardt the vice presidential pick of presumed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
Hours later, after Kerry announced that Senator John Edwards would be his running mate, the Post story disappeared from its Web site.
That, said one journalism professor, is a no-no.
"When something like this happens, a news organization should make some kind of note explaining to people what happened," said Paul Grabowicz, director of the New Media program at the University of California's Graduate School of Journalism. "News organizations do that in the print edition with the corrections or clarifications page, and it's even more imperative to do it online."
A Post representative acknowledged that the paper had published the Gephardt story both online and in the first two of its three print editions. The Post's print circulation is nearly 700,000 per day.
But the representative declined to say why the Post had removed the story without posting an explanation or correction at its former Web address.
Meanwhile, the original Post story has found a home on Web sites including The Smoking Gun and has become the subject of stories by other news outlets both online and off. At the time this story was published, more than 325 examples of the Post print edition were for sale on eBay.
Media critics have long cautioned news outlets against the temptation to make online corrections without acknowledging them, warning that the practice could undermine the credibility of Internet news.
Ethics aside, one reason is that sites changing or deleting stories on the sly are likely to get caught. Information--true or false, online or offline--has a great capacity to circulate online through hyperlinks, the Google cache, Internet archives, watchdog Web sites and other means.
"What happens is it spreads out into the ether," Grabowicz said. "There's a tendency in the digital world that, because it's easy to get rid of it, you get rid of it and don't leave a trace. I think that's a mistake."