‘Marketplace’ scolded for airing false ‘My Life is True’ commentary

American Public Media’s “Marketplace” is being criticized for not vetting a “My Life is True” commentary by a contributor who claimed he was an Army sniper in Iraq and once pitched for a Chicago Cubs minor-league team. Host Kai Ryssdal retracted the piece on Wednesday’s show and posted this on the “Marketplace” website:

Editors Note: A commentary by Leo Webb, “Returning veteran has few marketable skills,” prompted questions from listeners about Webb’s account of his service as an Army sniper in Iraq. A subsequent investigation found that the Army has no record of Webb. Webb also said he pitched for a Chicago Cubs minor-league team. Inquiries to the Cubs and to Minor League Baseball found no record of Webb. Marketplace has an obligation to provide accurate information. That was not met in this commentary. It has been retracted and the text and audio have been removed from the web site.

Media critic Erik Wemple writes this morning: “Marketplace deserves props for correcting the record, though not for the manner in which it wiped out its digital imprint of the offending material. …Marketplace also deserves credit for soliciting such tales, or at least the factual ones.”

The radio program is also being taken to the woodshed by some listeners, who are weighing in on Marketplace.org comments:

I would be very interested to know the process by which Mr. Webb’s commentary was accepted and what Marketplace will change in its vetting process to prevent a repeat of this kind of regrettable error. Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but this one was wholly preventable.

While it is encouraging that you have admitted your error and removed it, it is quite sad that you were so eager to be duped that you made no effort to check anything.

My memory of journalism school is that when your mother tells you she loves you, you are supposed to look for two independent sources to confirm it. Yet you folks ran this, which seemingly fits a political agenda, without anything resembling fact checking.

I’ve asked Ryssdal what changes are being made to prevent future embarrassments for the program. I’ll post his response when/if it comes in.

Although Marketplace has scrubbed the commentary, you can still read it here.

* “Marketplace” feature is a complete fabrication
* Read what people are saying about the retracted commentary