Journalism scandals

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Journalist, reporter, editor, news presenter, photo journalist, Columnist, visual journalist

 v  d  e 

Journalism scandals are high-profile incidents or acts, whether intentional or accidental, that run contrary to the generally accepted ethics and standards of journalism, or otherwise violate the 'ideal' mission of journalism: to report news events and issues accurately and fairly.



[edit] Characteristics of a journalism scandal

Journalistic scandals include: plagiarism, fabrication, and omission of information; activities that violate the law, or violate ethical rules; the altering or staging of an event being documented; or making substantial reporting or researching errors with the results leading to libelous or defamatory statements.

All journalistic scandals have the common factor that they call into question the integrity and truthfulness of journalism. These scandals shift public focus and scrutiny onto the media itself. Because credibility is journalism's main currency, many news agencies and mass media outlets have strict codes of conduct and enforce them, and use several layers of editorial oversight to catch problems before stories are distributed.

However, in many of the cases listed below, investigations later found that long-established journalistic checks and balances in the newsrooms failed. In some cases, senior editors fail to catch bias, libel, or fabrication inserted into a story by a reporter. In other cases, the checks and balances were omitted in the rush to get an important, 'breaking' news story to press (or on air).

[edit] Journalism scandals in the United States

[edit] Walter Duranty, The New York Times (1930s)

Walter Duranty, who covered the Soviet Union for The New York Times, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for a series of articles he wrote about Josef Stalin's effort to industrialize the nation. His stories not only uncritically backed Stalinist propaganda, but also denied that the Ukrainian famine, which killed millions as a direct or indirect result of Stalinist planning, took place. Duranty also defended Stalin's infamous show trials.

Despite efforts by Ukrainian groups to get the prize revoked, the Pulitzer board declined to do so and both the Pulitzer board and The New York Times still list Duranty among its prize winners, albeit with a footnote that his work is disputed. The New York Times hired Mark Von Hagen, a professor of Russian history, to review Duranty's work. The review concluded Duranty's reports to be unbalanced and uncritical, and they often gave voice to Stalin's propaganda. [3]

[edit] Janet Cooke, Washington Post (1980-1981)

Janet Cooke was a reporter for the Washington Post during the early 1980s. In 1980 her story, "Jimmy's World", about an 8-year old heroin addict, sparked a frenzied two-week scouring of Washington, D.C. at the behest of then-Mayor Marion Barry, in search of child addicts: none were found. The day after Cooke's article won a 1981 Pulitzer Prize for journalism, her editors confronted her about discrepancies in her resume brought to their attention by The Toledo Blade, where she once worked. Cooke falsely claimed that that she attended Vassar College. Cooke confessed that "Jimmy" was a fabrication, resigned and the Post returned the prize.

[edit] "Waiting to Explode", Dateline NBC (1992)

In a November 1992 segment on its Dateline NBC newsmagazine program called "Waiting to Explode", NBC showed a startling video which depicted a General Motors truck exploding after a low-speed side collision with another car. However, it was later revealed that the explosion was actually caused by hidden remote-controlled incendiary devices. GM sued NBC and eventually won a settlement. NBC News President Michael Gardner wrote a lengthy correction that was read on Dateline, and he was forced to resign.

[edit] The Oregonian's coverage of the Packwood scandal (1992)

The Oregonian was criticized when in November 1992 the Washington Post beat it to the story of sexual harassment charges against Oregon Republican Sen. Robert Packwood. The Oregonian's editors had long known about Packwood's behavior, because he had forced a kiss on one of their female reporters. The paper would miss an even bigger political scandal in 2004 (see entry below).

[edit] Bob Wisehart, Sacramento Bee (Mid 1990s)

In the mid 1990s Bob Wisehart, a TV critic for the Sacramento Bee was caught plagiarizing by his editors and resigned.

[edit] Stephen Glass, The New Republic (1998)

Stephen Glass was a reporter and associate editor for The New Republic magazine during the late 1990s. On May 8, 1998, Forbes Magazine presented The New Republic with evidence that Glass completely fabricated the story "Hack Heaven", a piece about a 15-year-old computer hacker who breaks into a large company's computer system and is then offered a job by the company. Glass was fired, and an internal investigation determined that 27 of 41 articles he had written for the magazine contained fabricated material. His story was dramatized in the 2003 film, Shattered Glass.

[edit] Patricia Smith, Boston Globe (1998)

Shortly after the Glass affair, award-winning columnist Patricia Smith was asked to resign from the Boston Globe. Smith, who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist that year and won the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Distinguished Writing Award for column-writing, admitted to putting fictional people in four of her columns.[1] The Globe later returned her ASNE award and withdrew her from consideration for the Pulitzer.

Race also became a touchy point in Smith's firing, because while the Globe fired Smith, who is black, they only suspended columnist Mike Barnicle for his plagiarism. Columnist Eileen McNamara argued that Smith's race caused her editors give her the benefit of the doubt when she had been previously suspected of fabrications: "It was the worst sort of racism that kept us from confronting the fraud we long suspected. If we did ask, and she did tell, we might lose her, and where would we be then? Where would we find an honest black woman columnist who wrote with such power and grace?"

Her editors proved that some of Smith's sources were faked when they could not find some of the people that were discussed in her columns, such as cosmetologist "Janine Byrne"; since cosmetologists' jobs are state-licensed, the Globe did a search for the name in the state's registry. A similar problem was discovered in columns by Sacramento Bee columnist Diana Griego Erwin, who resigned in 2005.

[edit] Operation Tailwind, CNN NewsStand (1998)

On the June 7 edition of NewsStand, CNN reported that the US used nerve gas in Laos to kill American defectors during the Vietnam War. It retracted this statement on July 2.

[edit] Mike Barnicle, Boston Globe (1998)

Mike Barnicle was a long-time journalist for the Boston Globe who was removed from his position at about the same time as colleague Patricia Smith. Barnicle was accused of violating several rules of reporting, but was removed from the Globe when it was discovered he fabricated quotes from parents of a sick child. Source: Boston Globe, October 5, 1998, Op-Ed Page

[edit] Michael Gallagher (1998)

Michael Gallagher, an investigative reporter with the Cincinnati Enquirer, co-authored an 18-page expose on Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International and its business practices in Central America. Gallagher's stories relied on internal Chiquita voice mails he said were acquired from an inside source, but he had actually been illegally tapping into the company's voice mail system. The paper retracted the stories, ran a front-page apology for three days and paid the company in excess of $10 million in damages, and allegedly agreed not to write further investigative pieces on the mammoth fruit company. No evidence exists that the co-author of the stories, Cameron McWhirter, was aware of what Gallagher was doing. The paper's editor, Lawrence K. Beaupre, was reassigned to Gannett headquarters following accusations that he did not adequately fact-check the stories because of his eagerness to win a Pulitzer Prize.

[edit] Jay Forman, Slate (2001)

Jay Forman, a feature reporter for online magazine Slate, wrote an article about "monkeyfishing", an underground extreme sport that involved using fruit to fish for monkeys on an isolated Florida Key. It was exposed as a hoax by the Wall Street Journal.

Jack Shafer, Foreman's editor at Slate, later wrote: "When Forman [...] turned in a first, flat draft about his Florida Keys adventure, I encouraged him through several rewrites to add more writerly detail to increase the piece's verisimilitude. Forman complied, inventing numerous twists to the tale [...] The lesson I learned isn't to refrain from asking writers for detail but to be skeptical about details that sound too good or that you had to push too hard to get the writer to uncover or that are suspicious simply because any writer worth his salt would have put them in his first draft. All that said, it's almost impossible for an editor to beat a good liar every time out."[2]

[edit] Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune (2002)

Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, who was considered one of the paper's stars, was forced to resign in September 2002 after he admitted that he had an extramarital affair 14 years earlier with a high school student who visited Greene for a school project. Greene subsequently used the visit as a subject for one of his columns. Greene often used his columns and books to crusade on behalf of children, most notably the Baby Richard case.

[edit] Christopher Newton, Associated Press (2002)

The Associated Press fired Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Christopher Newton in September 2002 accusing him of fabricating at least 40 people and organizations since 2000. Some of the nonexistent agencies quoted in his stories included "Education Alliance," the "Institute for Crime and Punishment in Chicago," "Voice for the Disabled," and "People for Civil Rights."

[edit] Houston Chronicle Light Rail Controversy (2002)

In late 2002 the Houston Chronicle accidentally posted an internal executive memorandum to its website. The memo contained materials that appeared to outline a plan for intentionally slanted reporting that promoted a pending bond referendum in the Houston, Texas metropolitan region. The memorandum was widely circulated and criticized in other Houston print and electronic media outlets; however the paper quietly removed it from their website. When questioned about the memo, Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen replied that the memo was a "story pitch" and refused to apologize for it. Other than Cohen's remarks the paper made no comment. [4] (see article on Houston Chronicle Light Rail Controversy).

[edit] Brian Walski, The Los Angeles Times (2003)

The Los Angeles Times fired photographer Brian Walski for digitally combining two photos taken during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While Walski claimed he was just trying create a more compelling picture, digital photo manipulation hugely undermines the public's confidence in media. After Walski's picture ran on the Times' front page on March 31, 2003, editors at the Hartford Courant (which like the Times is owned by the Tribune Company) noticed that several people in the photo appeared twice. Walski, who had been on the Times staff since 1998, was fired the following day.

[edit] James Forlong, Sky News (2003)

In April of 2003 the Sky News Network carried a report from James Forlong aboard the British nuclear submarine HMS Splendid purportedly showing a live firing of a cruise missile, at sea in the Persian Gulf, during the Iraq war. The report included scenes of the crew members giving instructions related to the launch of the missile and included a sequence in which a crew member pressed a large red button marked with the word "FIRE" and accompanied by a sequence of a missile breaking the surface of the water and launching into the air. The report was a fabrication, with the crew acting along for the benefit of the cameras. The Sky News team did not accompany the submarine when it left port and the scenes were actually recorded whilst the vessel was docked. The shot of the missile breaking the surface has been obtained from stock footage.

The faked report was revealed because a BBC film crew did accompany the vessel to sea. The BBC crew filmed a real cruise missile launch for the BBC TV series Fighting the War. The BBC footage showed how, with modern computerised launching systems, a missile is not launched by pressing a red button but is actually launched with a left mouse click. The BBC passed the information onto The Guardian newspaper who broke the story on July 18, 2003.

James Forlong was suspended from Sky News pending an investigation [5]. In October of 2003, he was found dead by his wife after committing suicide by hanging. In December, Sky News was fined £50,000 by the Independent Television Commission for breaching accuracy regulations.

[edit] CNN coverage of Iraq and Eason Jordan (2003)

Eason Jordan, news chief for CNN, admitted in the New York Times April 2003 that the network had been aware of dictator Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses since 1990. But the network did not cover said atrocities so it could maintain access to Hussein and keep CNN's bureau in Baghdad open. Jordan also defended the decision by saying that reporting on Hussein's crimes would have jeopardized CNN journalists and Iraqis working for them.

Jordan's revelation called journalistic ethics into question on the grounds of a news network intentionally soft-balling coverage of Hussein's regime, thus by proxy acting as a spokesman. Also, critics pointed out that the information on Hussein's crimes against humanity held back by CNN was a critical part of the national debate over going to war to oust Hussein from power.

Jordan resigned from the network two years later over alleged remarks that U.S. troops intentionally target journalists (see entry below).

[edit] Jayson Blair, The New York Times (2003)

In early May 2003, The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair resigned after being confronted with evidence of fabricating quotes and details in at least 36 articles. The incident, and the revelations about management that followed, shook the journalism community, given that many journalists regard the Times as the nation's most prestigious newspaper. The paper's credibility was particularly hard hit, because Blair had completely fabricated some of his stories.

After Blair's resignation scrutiny quickly fell on executive editor Howell Raines, and to a lesser extent managing editor Gerald M. Boyd, as testimony from Times watchers and employees disgruntled with Raines' autocratic management style showed the duo had fast-tracked Blair for promotion, despite warnings from other employees about Blair's erratic behavior and high error rate.

Times' Metro editor Jonathan Landman wrote in an e-mail to Raines that the paper "...need[ed] to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now." Bernard Goldberg, in his best-selling book "Arrogance," said that by all accounts, Raines "...made Napoleon Bonaparte look like Richard Simmons." On June 5, 2003, Raines and Boyd resigned as a result of this scandal.

[edit] "Gropegate", The Los Angeles Times (2003)

The Los Angeles Times drew fire for a last-minute story before the 2003 California recall election alleging that gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger groped scores of women during his movie career. While the story itself was not discredited, the newspaper's motives and timing were brought into question. The newspaper ran the story days before the recall even though it had prepared the story weeks beforehand.

As well, columnist Jill Stewart pointed out that the Times did not do a story on allegations that former Governor Gray Davis had verbally and physically abused women in his office. Stewart had written about those allegations while working for the now-defunct New Times Los Angeles. The Schwarzenegger story was run with a number of anonymous sources (four of the six alleged victims were not named); however, in the case of the Davis allegations, the Times decided against running the Davis story because of its reliance on anonymous sources. Carroll stated that the Times lost over 10,000 subscribers due to the negative publicity surrounding this article.[6]

[edit] Jack Kelley, USA Today (2004)

In early 2004, an anonymous letter to editors of USA Today triggered an internal investigation into the conduct of one of its star reporters, Jack Kelley. Kelley resigned after USA Today found letters from Kelley to his friends on Kelley's office computer, asking them to pretend to be sources when editors verifying his stories called them. An internal investigation later found that Kelley had been fabricating stories or parts of stories since at least 1991, and that outside sources had been warning USA Today reporters about Kelley's conduct.

Furthermore, similar to the findings of the Siegal Commission convened by The New York Times in the wake of the Jayson Blair revelations, investigators found a "climate of fear" in the news section that discouraged co-workers, many of whom were suspicious of Kelley's work, to come forward. The investigation, also similar to the Times' findings, concluded that editorial favoritism played a significant role, given that Kelley had 'star' status at the paper. Previous attempts to examine discrepancies failed, according to the investigation, because editors set out with the goal exonerating Kelly. USA Today's top two editors resigned as a result of the Kelley scandal.

[edit] Stephen Dunphy, Seattle Times (2004)

Stephen Dunphy was a business columnist for the Seattle Times with over 35 years of journalism experience. He was caught plagiarizing in several of his stories and was fired.

[edit] The Oregonian's coverage of the Goldschmidt scandal (2004)

The integrity of The Oregonian took a blow after it was revealed that the paper failed to act on evidence that former Democratic governor Neil Goldschmidt committed statutory rape. Willamette Week, a Portland alternative newspaper, ran a story that alleged that Goldschmidt engaged in sex acts with his 14-year-old babysitter.

As with the Bob Packwood scandal in 1992 (see above entry), The Oregonian had information which it failed to seriously investigate. The Oregonian was further criticized for its follow-up coverage, which called Goldschmidt's statutory rape an "affair." Willamette Week writer Nigel Jaquiss won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage.

[edit] The Boston Globe's Fake "GI Rape" Photographs (2004)

In May of 2004, the Boston Globe published photographs it alleged were of United States soldiers abusing and raping women in Iraq. Shortly thereafter, these photographs were stated to be commercially-produced pornography that were originally published on a web site named "Sex in War". At the time, other news sources had exposed the photographs as fake at least a week before the Boston newspaper published them.

[edit] The ABC News election memo (2004)

A leaked memo dated October 8 from ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin to news staff told them to hold President George W. Bush to a higher level of scrutiny than Democratic challenger John Kerry. The memo reads in part, "... the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes [sic] all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win."

[edit] Carl Cameron, Fox News Channel (2004)

On October 1, 2004, Fox News Channel political correspondent Carl Cameron posted a news article on the network's website which apparently contained fabricated quotes attributed to Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate during the 2004 presidential campaign. The article -- titled "Trail Tales" -- falsely quoted Kerry as claiming to do manicures and being a metrosexual. Cameron also delivered a report on the September 30, 2004 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume covering the presidential debates, falsely claiming that Kerry received a "pre-debate manicure." Fox News later retracted the story, saying, "This was a stupid mistake and a lapse in judgment, and Carl regrets it.... It was a poor attempt at humor." Critics claimed that Cameron's article was a definitive example of Fox News' alleged conservative bias. Fox News assured critics that Cameron was reprimanded, and the article was taken down from the channel's website.

[edit] CBS News and the "Killian Documents" (2004)

During the 2004 US presidential campaign, CBS and Dan Rather were responsible for using what were probably forged documents during a September 8, 2004, 60 Minutes Wednesday report on George W. Bush's Vietnam-era service record.

Producer Mary Mapes bore the brunt of the criticism. She was accused of liberal bias for working on the story for five years and putting Bill Burkett, the source of the memos, in contact with Democratic challenger John Kerry's campaign. The panel investigation into what was called "Memogate" and "Rathergate" accused Mapes of gross negligence for "crashing" the story six days after she received the copies of the memos and doing "virtually nothing" to establish a chain of custody. No original documents have been produced.

The aftermath of the independent investigation's report released on January 10, 2005 led to the firing of Mapes. She later wrote a book arguing that the memos were real. Yet paradoxically Mapes also advanced a conspiracy theory that White House advisor Karl Rove had planted the memos in order to deflect attention from Bush's service record during the Vietnam War. Three others, Josh Howard, executive producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday; his top deputy Mary Murphy; and senior vice president Betsy West, were asked to resign.

Rather stepped down as anchor of the CBS Evening News on March 9, 2005, with about two years left on his contract. Although denied by Rather and CBS, many critics believe that his early retirement was a direct result of the scandal. Rather has since told reporters that even if the documents are fakes, he stands by the story.

[edit] Eason Jordan, CNN (2005)

CNN news chief Eason Jordan resigned in February 2005 following a controversy over comments he made January 27 at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, accusing U.S. troops of targeting journalists. His comments were reported by blogger Rony Abovitz, who attended the forum, as well as U.S. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, who publicly requested Jordan to offer proof of the accusations. A videotape of the private conference was never released, and CNN never asked for one. However, Jordan had made similar accusations in 2004 at a News XChange conference in Portugal.

Jordan's resignation further established bloggers, whose pressure helped force New York Times editor Howell Raines to resign and CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather to step down, as a powerful check on mainstream journalism. Unlike the Jayson Blair and Memogate scandals, which the mainstream press relentlessly covered, the Jordan affair was widely ignored by the mainstream media until Jordan's resignation forced them to report it.

[edit] Fake American hostage, Associated Press (2005)

The Associated Press moved a story on February 1 with a picture of what appeared to be an American soldier held hostage in Iraq. The story stated that the captors would kill the soldier in 72 hours unless Iraqi prisoners were freed. Hours after the story was published, bloggers who had noticed that the [7] 'hostage' depicted in the photo had his equipment and hand grenades, argued instead that the 'hostage' was a toy doll of an Air force special operations airman and found an exact match on-line. The hoax, which ran on the heels of Memogate at CBS, further sullied the media's reputation for poor fact-checking, because United States Central Command had not reported any soldiers missing at the time.

[edit] Eric Slater, Los Angeles Times (2005)

The Los Angeles Times fired veteran reporter Eric Slater in April 2005 after he wrote an inaccurate article about hazing practices allegedly occurring at Chico State University. Slater's article relied heavily on unnamed sources and quoted the university president by plagiarizing a quote from a local paper. Slater's inaccurate story ran two days after former media critic David Shaw wrote in his Los Angeles Times column that Internet bloggers do not deserve protection under journalistic "shield laws" because their work is not fact-checked and has no editorial oversight.

[edit] Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press (2005)

Detroit Free Press ("Freep") columnist Mitch Albom wrote a column in April 3, 2005 about the April 2 NCAA Final Four game against Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina. Albom's article stated that Michigan basketball alumni Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson were watching in the stands. Cleaves and Richardson had told Albom earlier that they would be attending, but they had a change of plans and did not attend the game.

"The Freep" disciplined Albom and four other employees, calling Albom's actions an unethical shortcut. Even though Albom's description of what Cleaves and Richardson were wearing was a case of fabrication, a first-time firing offense for many papers journalism operations, Albom was not fired, perhaps due to his 'star' status at the paper.

[edit] Barry Schweid, Associated Press (2005)

On April 11, 2005, the Associated Press reported that John Bolton, nominee for ambassador of the United States to the United Nations had said "that the world body had 'gone off track' at times but that he was committed to its mission". This article was filed more than an hour before the beginning of the hearing session at which Mr. Bolton allegedly made these remarks.

[edit] Barbara Stewart, Boston Globe (2005)

In the spring of 2005, the Boston Globe ran a story describing the events of a seal hunt near Prince Edward Island that took place on April 12, 2005. The article described the specific number of boats involved in the hunt and graphically described the killing of seals and the protests that accompanied it. The reality is that weather had delayed the hunt, which had not even begun by April 13, the day the story had been filed, and was rescheduled to start, at the earliest, on April 15, three days after Ms. Stewart (who had worked for the New York Times for a decade previous) "described" the events of said hunt. As there was no hunt to describe, the story was obviously fabricated. As of yet, Ms. Stewart has not commented on filing this story describing events that never occurred.

[edit] Diana Griego Erwin, Sacramento Bee (2005)

Sacramento Bee columnist Diana Griego Erwin resigned in May 2005 shortly after her editors confronted her about several people in her columns whose existence could not be verified. An internal investigation concluded a month later could not find 30 people in 27 of her 171 columns since January 2004, and a random search of columns dating back to 1995 found 10 more phantom sources. Reporters developed a test for Erwin's columns, and certified it by checking names in 36 random pieces by three other columnists, all of which checked out.

Erwin's case shared several similarities to that of Boston Globe columnist Patricia Smith, who was fired in 1998 for fabricating sources. The Bee's final report said that many of Erwin's columns "fit a template: essays, often with a surprising O. Henry twist, about a singular person who faces a challenge and surmounts it." Smith's columns often followed a similar template. Also, like the Globe's investigation into Smith, Bee reporters could not track down people in Erwin's stories whose vocations are state licensed, such as teachers and barbers.

Other Bee writers fired for ethics violations included television critic Bob Wisehart for plagiarism, and sports writer Jim Van Vliet for writing up a game he watched on television as if he had attended.

[edit] Chris Cecil, Cartersville Daily News (2005)

Chris Cecil, a 28-year-old associate managing editor at the Cartersville (Ga.) Daily Tribune News, was fired in June 2005 after his superiors at the 8,000-circulation daily learned that he had plagiarized at least eight columns from syndicated Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts since March of that year. A reader of the Cartersville paper tipped off Pitts, who wrote a scathing column critical of Cecil, especially because he plagiarized much of Pitts' column in which Pitts dealt with his mother's losing battle with cancer. Of one Cecil column, almost plagiarized word-for-word, Pitts wrote, "You essentially took my name off and slapped yours on."

[edit] The Daily Egyptian's fake orphan (2005)

For two years The Daily Egyptian, the newspaper of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, had run articles by a young girl named Kodee Kennings, whose father, Sgt. Dan Kennings, was serving in the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. When Dan Kennings was reported killed in action, the Chicago Tribune discovered that the Egyptian had fallen for an elaborate hoax by a student who convinced actors playing the family that they were filming a documentary. Jaimie Reynolds, the woman who perpetrated the hoax, claimed that former editor Michael Brenner was involved, which he denied.

[edit] Bush administration journalism scandals (2005)

Main article: Bush administration payment of columnists

The Bush White House paid public funds to right-wing media commentators by several U.S. executive departments under Cabinet officials to promote various policies of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration. Thousands of dollars were paid to at least three commentators to promote Bush administration policies. This included Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and Michael McManus.[citation needed]

[edit] Jim Van Vliet, Sacramento Bee (2005)

Jim Van Vliet, a sports writer for the Sacramento Bee, was fired when his editors learned that he had written about a San Francisco Giants game after watching it on TV, while quoting players as if he'd actually personally interviewed them in the locker room afterwards.

[edit] Nada Behziz, The Bakersfield Californian (2005)

Nada Behziz, a 25-year-old reporter in her first year as The Bakersfield Californian's health writer, was fired in October 2005 when editors discovered that her article about teenage smoking plagiarized a quotation from a 1995 San Francisco Examiner story. An internal investigation turned up 29 pieces containing unattributed borrowings from other papers, along with seven stories featuring sources that could not be verified. In one case, the University of California at Los Angeles denied the existence of a man Behziz described as a professor at the school. After Behziz's dismissal, her previous employer, The Daily Republic of Fairfield, California, did its own probe and found that at least two of her pieces contained plagiarized material.

[edit] Tim Ryan, Honolulu Star-Bulletin (2006)

Tim Ryan was a 21-year veteran writer with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Entertainment columnist Tim Ryan was fired on January 14, 2006, for plagiarizing a number of stories during his time at the Star-Bulletin. In a statement on the paper's official website, editor Frank Bridgewater said, "The stories contained phrases or sentences that appeared elsewhere before being included, un-attributed, in stories that ran in the Star-Bulletin. The stories did not include inaccurate information or any fabrications." (full statement) Similarities between Ryan's December 22 review of the History Channel documentary "Secrets of the Black Box: Aloha Flight 243" were first noted on the Wikipedia Signpost [8]. Although Bridgewater did not reference Wikipedia in his official statement, the article itself was corrected by the Star-Bulletin on December 24. The correction read: "A portion of a review of the television show "Secrets of the Black Box: Aloha Flight 243" was taken verbatim from the Web site The material was originally published in the online encyclopedia [sic]. The article, on Page D6 Thursday, failed to attribute the information to either source." [9] A Wikipedia editor brought a complaint to the paper, eventually leading to Ryan's dismissal.

[edit] Hassan Fattah, New York Times' Abu Ghraib photos (2006)

In March 2006, the New York Times ran a front-page interview by reporter Hassan M. Fattah with Ali Shalal Qaissi, who claimed he was the man hooded and hooked up to wires in the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison picture. The Internet magazine Salon quickly questioned the man's claim, as did the U.S. military, and the Times soon discovered that the man was not really the person in the picture. Furthermore, the Times had run the actual man's name in its own pages several years earlier.

The Times admitted in the correction that it did not do enough to establish the man's identity. Days later, the Times retracted the profile of a Hurricane Katrina refugee living in a Bronx hotel and criticizing the government's handling of the crisis because she, too, was a fraud. She was arrested on fraud charges for allegedly attempting to get federal relief.

[edit] Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times (2006)

Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Los Angeles Times, lost his "Golden State" column and his blog in April, a week after conservative blogger Patrick Frey at Patterico's Pontifications discovered that Hiltzik had been posting comments at his blog and others under at least two alternate identities, an Internet practice called "sock puppeting.". Hiltzik passed off his alter egos, "Mikekoshi" and "nofanofcablecos", as separate people who either praised Hiltzik and the Times or attacked his foes, which were typically conservative ideas or people, and included Patterico (a deputy district attorney), Hugh Hewitt, Cathy Seipp and others.

Hiltzik was suspended without pay and reassigned. Several years before winning the Pulitzer, Hiltzik was reassigned from the paper's Moscow bureau after he hacked into and read co-workers' e-mail.

[edit] Paul Bradley, Richmond Times-Dispatch (2006)

The Richmond Times-Dispatch fired 51-year-old writer Paul Bradley, on May 26 after he fabricated material in a story on President George W. Bush's immigration speech. He made up a quote from a director at a center for day laborers, stole a description of people waiting for work from a Washington Post article, and gave the story a dateline making it appear as if he visited the area.

The director of the center quoted in Bradley's story May 17 alerted his editors, who have promised to look into Bradley's other stories. Bradley apologized but said that "the punishment far exceeds the crime." Fabrication at most newspapers is a first-time firing offense.

[edit] Philip Chien, Wired News (2006)

Wired News pulled three news articles by freelance writer Philip Chien in August 2006 after it could not verify the authenticity of a source he used in them, namely Robert Ash, an aeronautical engineering professor at Old Dominion University. Ash had never spoken to Chien on any matter. Chien also admitted to fabricating e-mail accounts in an attempt to mislead editors.

[edit] Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher (2006)

Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchell admitted in a May 2003 column following the Jayson Blair scandal at The New York Times that he fabricated sources for a story he wrote as a young reporter for the then Niagara Falls Gazette.

Conservative bloggers in 2006 began publicizing his years-old admission after Mitchell penned two columns critical of bloggers accusing the media of staging and faking photographs and news stories during the Israel-Hezbollah War (see 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict photographs controversies). Someone at the magazine subsequently changed Mitchell's column on-line to downplay Mitchell's admitted fabrications, adding that he was a 19-year-old intern at the time. Changing a story on-line without an editor's note alerting readers is widely regarded in journalism as an ethical breach.

Bloggers also alleged that Mitchell may not have been a 19-year-old intern, but a 21-year-old professional reporter when he fabricated the sources, because the incident he covered – reducing the river's flow to repair the rock face – actually occurred in 1969, not 1967 as Mitchell's altered column stated.

[edit] Adnan Hajj, Reuters (2006)

Reuters pulled 920 photographs of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict from freelance photographer Adnan Hajj in August 2006 after it was exposed by blogger Little Green Footballs that several high-profile photographs had been altered heavily in Adobe Photoshop; see Adnan Hajj photographs controversy. The manipulations exaggerated the damage done by Israeli bombing.

LGF blogger Charles Johnson, Jawa Report blogger Rusty Shackleford and others in the following days found similar questionable photographs from other media outlets. Because of questions brought up in blogs, the BBC, The New York Times and the AP were forced to recall photos or issue corrections to photos taken in Lebanon during the conflict; see 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict photographs controversies.

[edit] Miami anti-Castro broadcasts (2006)

In September 2006, it came to light that ten Miami-area journalists were hired by the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting to appear as guests on government-funded anti-Castro radio and television shows being sent into Cuba. (The shows cannot be broadcast in the United States due to anti-propaganda laws.) Three of the ten worked for El Nuevo Herald and were fired. [3]

[edit] Jack Hitt and New York Times Abortion/Infanticide Article (2006)

On April 9, 2006, the New York Times printed an article by Jack Hitt[4] claiming Carmen Climaco was jailed in El Salvador for having an abortion. On December 31, 2006, the New York Times published a correction by its ombudsmen where they explained that Ms Climaco had been convicted of murdering her child after birth. The claims of it being an abortion had been made by an organization supporting legalized abortion and the Times had not verified their information. [5]

[edit] Jacqueline Gonzalez, San Antonio Express News (2007)

San Antonio Express-News "Watchdog" columnist Jacqueline Gonzalez resigned on January 2, 2007, after allegations of plagiarism. The newspaper had discovered that three of Gonzalez' recent columns copied text from Wikipedia and other sources without attribution. Gonzalez' column advised readers how to tackle problems in their everyday lives.

[edit] Consumer Reports (2007)

On January 4, 2007, the magazine Consumer Reports issued a report and published an article in its February 2007 issue that claimed that all but two of infant car seat brands tested by the magazine were unsafe for infants in the events of a high-speed car crash. The magazine reported that some of the car seats flew off of their bases and one of the small dummies used simply flew out of one of the seats. However, when the U.S. government tested those same brands of seats, they performed normally. It was later determined that the company hired by Consumer Reports to carry out the tests used a higher speed (70 mph.) than the usual speed (38-40 mph.) during a normal crash test. On January 18, Consumer Reports issued a partial retraction, announcing it would retest the car seats.

[edit] Maria Bartiromo, CNBC (2007)

Maria Bartiromo, a popular host on the business news channel CNBC, came under fire for alleged unethical journalistic practices concerning her relationship with the financial services company Citigroup. The Wall Street Journal reported on January 14, 2007 that the head of Citigroup's wealth management unit, Todd Thomson, was forced to resign in part because of spending company money on functions involving Bartiromo. Thomson was advised by Citigroup executives to reduce his contact with Bartiromo after the two were seen together around New York City, the Journal reported. But he spent $5 million to sponsor a Sundance Channel program co-hosted by Bartiromo, and the two flew back together from a business function in Asia on Citigroup's corporate jet. Bartiromo is no longer hosting the Sundance program, but it is rumored that she has flown on Thomson's jet several times, vacationed with him at his private Montana ski lodge, as well as dined with him behind the back of Citigroup's board. Thomson, after gifting $500,000 to the Wharton in 2004, also had Bartiromo added to the advisory board for a special commission. She and Thomson were then suspiciously co-hosts of a later leadership conference at Wharton in 2005. Speculation continues to run rampant through Wall Street as to the nature of her and Thomson's relationship, but it is possible that her marriage has grown sour over her husband's recent financial hardship and business failure. [10] [11] [12][13] It wasn't the first time journalists had raised questions about Bartiromo's ties with Citigroup. In 2003, Bartiromo interviewed Citigroup's CEO, Sanford I. Weill, and stammered that she owned 1,000 shares of Citigroup stock. A number of journalism boards consider it unethical for reporters to own shares in the companies on which they report.

[edit] Allan Detrich, The Blade (2007)

Photographer and 1998 Pulitzer Prize finalist Allan Detrich resigned his post as staff photographer for the Toledo Blade on April 7th, 2007, following an admission that a submission he had made, covering the Bluffton University baseball team praying for five of their teammates who had died in a road accident, had been digitally altered. A pair of legs belonging to a fellow photographer had been "cloned" out of the image, something Detrich never denied but insisted was submitted in error from his personal image collection. The Photoshop manipulation was first discovered when photographers from rival papers realized some near-identical shots taken the same scene from a very similar angle all contained the legs. The controversy was first reported on April 7th by the NPPA's News Photographer magazine.[6]

The Blade were quick to withdraw all of Detrich's recent work from their image archives, amounting to 947 photographs, 79 of which were discovered to have been visibly altered, including the addition of major, context-changing elements. Twenty-seven altered photographs were reported to have been published by the newspaper since January 2007.[7] The New York branch of the Associated Press also took the precaution of removing all of Detrich's work from their archives, pending further investigation. The photographer was quoted as saying, "I realize now, that this might be the end to my newspaper career, I am so sorry this incident happened plain and simple." According to his blog, Detrich is reported to be setting up a web-based weather disaster training service called, which has nothing to do with photography.

The Blade published an apology to its readership on April 15th.[8]

[edit] CBS and Katie Couric Plagiarism (2007)

One of "Katie Couric's Notebook" columns on the CBS News website, a piece about the declining use of libraries, was found to have plagiarized an article by Wall Street Journal author Jeffrey Zaslow, "Of the Places You'll Go, Is the Library Still One of Them?". It was revealed that Couric does not generally write these columns, although they often include first-person recounting of supposed events. On April 12, 2007, CBS admitted that her most recent column was plagiarized from a Zaslow article and that the unidentified producer who provided the material had been fired. The article has since been removed.[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^
  2. ^ [1]Shafer, Jack, "The Jayson Blair Project: How did he bamboozle the New York Times?" article in Schafer's "press box" column in Slate (magazine), May 8, 2003, accessed September 24, 2006
  3. ^ "Fla. Journalists Paid to Hasten Castro's Ouster", by Doualy Xaykaothao (NPR). All Things Considered, 8 September, 2006. [2]
  4. ^ "Pro-Life Nation", New York Times Magazine, 9 April 2006
  5. ^ "Truth, Justice, Abortion and the Times Magazine", New York Times
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Roberts, Johnnie L.. "Couric's Contretemps", Newsweek/, April 10, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-13. 

[edit] External links