As quickly as the Atlanta Progressive News made a splash Friday by breaking a story that the City of Atlanta offered to settle the lawsuit over the botched Eagle raid, they backtracked when it became clear their report was wrong. It’s not quite the sort of headline the paper’s gay founder, Matthew Cardinale, wants to brag about when he and his crew celebrate APN’s fifth birthday on Tuesday. It also provides an unfortunate asterisk in Cardinale’s coverage of the raid. He is, after all, the reporter who broke the story the morning after the Sept. 10, 2009 raid. In the meantime, both sides in the contentious lawsuit spent Monday in court-ordered mediation in an attempt to bring the case to a close, an effort that the city and Mayor Kasim Reed rebuked earlier this year but warmed to last month when Reed created a blue ribbon commission to bring an end to the lawsuit. A federal judge irritated over allegations that the city and the Atlanta Police Department destroyed evidence in the case and delayed discovery certainly helped bring about a change of heart for Reed and the city. Continued blowback from the city’s politically powerful LGBT community didn’t hurt, either. Here’s what happened on Friday: About noon, APN published Cardinale’s story asserting that the City of Atlanta sent letters to at least two plaintiffs in the Eagle lawsuit offering to settle the case for amounts ranging from $8,000 to $20,000. It was an explosive development for the year-old lawsuit and the overall issue that has dominated Reed’s relationship with the gays since taking office in January. A short time later, Project Q Atlanta publishes a post about APN’s story. Daniel Grossman, one of three attorneys who filed the lawsuit in November 2009 and is often its public face, declines comment citing a gag order from U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten ahead of the mediation he ordered to take place. Reese McCranie, a spokesperson for Reed, also declines comment. The GA Voice weighs in about 2:15 p.m. with a story disputing APN’s assertion that the city was looking to settle. The paper talked with “sources familiar with the case,” who said the letters were not sent by the city but were instead communications between plaintiffs and their attorneys. The article also includes this surprising nugget:
Matthew Cardinale, news editor for Atlanta Progressive News and the author of the article, said in an interview this afternoon that he did not see the letters for himself and did not ask to see them because he knew it was a sensitive topic and he was concerned that the sources would stop discussing the case with him. "I may have incorrectly assumed the letter were offers from the city but maybe they were in fact letters [from their attorneys] to get on the record what people may want," he said.By this time, the media feeding frenzy is on. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution files a story, unaware of a possible settlement offer and sticking to the basics of Monday’s mediation. The Sunday Paper also jumps in with News Editor Stephanie Ramage blogging about new developments. APN’s story also prompts Creative Loafing to join the fray. WABE, too. Cardinale takes to APN’s new website to update the story and step close to offering a retraction, but not quite getting there. That update was later scrubbed from the site to make room for a second one, which offers a full-throated mea culpa.
Indeed, the two original sources did say that the letters were sent by Grossman; however, due to context clues, APN believed that they were settlement offers from the City merely being passed on by Grossman. Therefore, a correction is in order to hereby note that the letters were likely from Grossman and not the City.Oops.