Letter: Poynter and the ‘serial fabricator’

From KC JOHNSON: I’m a professor of history a Brooklyn College. I blogged and co-wrote a book (with Stuart Taylor) on the Duke lacrosse case.

I occasionally still update the blog, mostly on matters related to the players’ civil suit, which has the potential to be precedent-setting in higher-ed law. But I recently came across a post by Poynter’s Kelly McBride in which she both used Wendy Murphy as a source and referenced Murphy as an instructor in a Poynter seminar. Murphy had been a frequent commentator in the lacrosse case; over and over and over again, she simply invented “facts” to bolster her pro-prosecution viewpoint.

I had assumed that Poynter would be horrified by its connection with a serial fabricator; it turns out, after I heard back from McBride, that I was wrong, as I noted in the post summarizing the matter.

I’m obviously not a journalist, but I had assumed that for a group like Poynter, there’d be no bigger sin that a person using repeated, and easily checkable, misstatements of truth. That Poynter would put such a figure in a position to instruct journalists very much surprises me.

* Poynter & The Serial Fabricator

I’ve invited McBride to respond. Disclosure: I was once employed by Poynter.

UPDATE: Read McBride’s letter to Johnson after the jump.

I did reply to him. Here’s the note I sent:

From: Kelly McBride
Date: February 3, 2012 9:06:04 PM EST
To: KC Johnson
Subject: Re: question re Wendy Murphy & Poynter

Hi KC,

We often host provocative and controversial figures as guest speakers here at Poynter. As journalists, we don’t shy away from the controversial and Wendy definitely falls into that category. We have never required that our teachers and speakers abide by a certain orthodoxy or philosophy. Instead, we present the journalists we teach with a variety of information and viewpoints. Our only criteria is that our presenters be dynamic and thought-provoking. Wendy is well-known and respected among those who work toward preventing sexual assault, particularly lawyers who work in this area. She has a proven track record on behalf of sexual assault victims. She has been published and quoted by respectable newsrooms throughout the country.

While I don’t have the ability to go through every statement that you cite, I can tell you that none of it surprises me. Some of those statements are her opinions. Some of them are statements she made based on her expertise in the subject area. Some of them are taken out of context.

The journalists who’ve been in the seminars Wendy has taught at Poynter have rated her teaching as superb, even when they disagree with her viewpoints. Because I value dialogue and diversity of thought as teaching tools, I would work to bring Wendy back to a Poynter seminar on sexual assault, should I get the chance. She brings great value to the conversation, even if I don’t agree with everything she says.





  1. I have been on (Boston) television with Murphy, and I don’t know about her facts but she makes it her business to see that no one else gets to talk.

  2. Poynter should be embarrassed by Wendy Murphy’s fabrications, humiliated by Kelly McBride’s clumsy obfuscation. Professor Johnson, btw, is a wolverine for truth, as the Duke University administration is painfully and deservedly aware.

  3. Well, Poynter is as Poynter dumbs, doesn’t it? Poynter these days seems to me to be the dead horse that is frantically trying to learn to beat itself.

  4. lola doby said:

    I have heard of these tics before it is a response to certain medications if you mix estacy with viagra it can cause parkinson like tics dopamine receptors get messed up neurotranmittors l dopa if still used may help these tics these girls could have ingested without knowing