Tuesday, February 2, 2016
More dishonesty discovered in the NYTimes newsroom. If it fits the narrative then it's true, even when it's not.
The news website The Intercept said on Tuesday that a former reporter had fabricated quotations in some of his articles and impersonated other people by using email accounts in their names.
Betsy Reed, the news organization’s editor in chief, said that the first evidence appeared in late December and that the reporter, Juan Thompson, was fired on Jan. 4. In an online note to readers, she listed four articles that had been corrected and one that had been retracted.
Ms. Reed wrote that an internal investigation turned up instances in which Mr. Thompson quoted people who later said he had never interviewed them, could not remember speaking with him or whose identities could not be confirmed. She added that he had also quoted unnamed people he claimed to have met at public events whose words could not be verified and that he had used an email account in someone else’s name to impersonate a source.
The note also said he had created an account in her name.
“We apologize to the subjects of these stories; to the people who were falsely quoted; and to you, our readers,” Ms. Reed wrote. “We are contacting news outlets that picked up the corrected stories to alert them to our problems.”
The retracted article was based on an interview with someone presented as Scott Roof, the cousin of Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people in a racially motivated attack in a church in Charleston, S.C., last June. In the article, Scott Roof is quoted saying that Dylann Roof’s hatred may have stemmed from a girl who chose to date a black man rather than him.
“After speaking with two members of Dylann Roof’s family, The Intercept can no longer stand by the premise of this story,” the retraction on top of the article says. “Both individuals said they do not know of a cousin named Scott Roof.”
The Intercept was founded in 2014 with the financial backing of Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay. Its best-known writer is the Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald, who most prominently covers national security issues.
Ms. Reed said in the note that Mr. Thompson “wrote mostly short articles on news events and criminal justice.”
Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Thompson sent The New York Times an email addressed to Ms. Reed. In it he said he was undergoing radiation treatment for testicular cancer and had not had the time or energy to review his notes. He attributed the errors in his articles to poor reporting and the unwillingness of some of his subjects to go on the record, rather than to intentional prevarication.
“If I couldn’t obtain a quote from the person I wanted, I went somewhere else, and must’ve forgot to change the names — clearly,” Mr. Thompson wrote. “Also, yes, I encouraged some of my interviewees to use another name; they’re poor black people who didn’t want their names in the public given the situations” and that was the only way, he said, “of convincing them otherwise.”
In an email on Tuesday, Ms. Reed wrote that she had received an email from Mr. Thompson but that it was not identical to other versions that were being circulated online.
“This is a case of a troubled individual,” Ms. Reed wrote. “We have corrected the problems we found in his journalism in a transparent manner, and will continue to strive for the highest standards in our reporting.”