UPDATE: I’m told that Monroe Evening News editor Deb Saul asked sportswriter Jeff Meade to “add context to the column.” It’s been reposted here.
Veteran Monroe (Mich.) Evening News sportswriter Jeff Meade was struggling to come up with a topic for Tuesday’s column.
“I just didn’t feel fired up about any sports issue,” he says in a phone interview.
In the end, the 57-year-old journalist decided to go with an idea “that was just in the back of my mind” — revealing the most unethical things he’s ever done as a reporter.
“It was a throwaway column,” says Meade, who attended Eastern Michigan University in the 1970s but never graduated. (“I never took a journalism class, but I worked for four years at the Eastern Echo.”)
In a piece headlined “Journalism students: Don’t do this,” Meade admits to:
* “Reconstructing” quotes after losing his notes
* Favoring players he covered
* Going out with a beauty pageant winner after interviewing her
* Using a city manager’s quotes after being told not to (the official made the request at the end of the interview, so Meade wasn’t in the wrong)
“It was sort of a coming-clean column, but I didn’t think any of them were that serious,” Meade says. “And most of them happened at the first paper I worked for. I hope I wouldn’t do any of those things now. But if all journalists were candid they would say they’ve pushed the envelope before.”
Meade tells me that his 19-year-son — a pastoral ministry student — “thought it was good, and my sports editor thought it was funny.” As for other colleagues at the 20,000-circulation daily, “I don’t know if anyone on the staff read it.” (I don’t think he was joking.)
Readers weren’t amused by the piece:
“You need to find a new profession, sir,” one wrote in the comments. “You should be fired,” said another. “You’re pathetic.”
“These people weren’t as upset after I responded to them,” says Meade. “They thought I had written this for journalism students, but I didn’t. I didn’t write the headline.”
Meade’s piece circulated on social media, but “I didn’t know that it had stirred anything up” until the column was taken off his paper’s website — “maybe because the responses got out of hand.”