[UPDATED] Chicago Tribune stops using Journatic after discovering plagiarism, fabricated quote

UPDATE: Mike Fourcher has resigned as Journatic’s editorial chief “because the founders and I fundamentally disagree about ethical and management issues as they relate to a successful news business.” He says the hyperlocal content provider’s “core premise is sound,” but the model falters “when it attempts to treat community news reporting the same way as data reporting.”

Inevitably, as you distribute reporting work to an increasingly remote team, you break traditional bonds of trust between writers and editors until they are implicitly discouraged from doing high quality work for the sake of increasing production efficiency and making more money.

In meetings yesterday, “I pushed for the company to consider writing and copy editing quality when determining pay and promotion. Both founders responded with new plans to focus on production efficiency metrics while ignoring methods to promote work quality and pride.”

When he joined Journatic in May, Fourcher told the Chicago Reader he was doing so because “I believe they are improving the way people get the news they want.”

* Why I’m resigning from Journatic (fourcher.net)
* May 4, 2012: Fourcher has a good word for Journatic (Chicago Reader)

EARLIER:

The Chicago Tribune says it’s “suspending indefinitely” its use of Journatic, the hyperlocal content provider it invested in earlier this year, after discovering that a sports story in a TribLocal edition “contained elements that were plagiarized and fabricated.”

A Tribune memo says:

An investigation by Tribune editors determined that the writer of the story titled, “Epstein shows effectiveness on the mound,” did not contact the main subject.

One quote attributed to the subject originally was published in a June 7 Deerfield Review story by Bill McLean. A second quote in the TribLocal story was fabricated; it was based on information in a story by Steve Sadin that ran March 29 on Deerfield.Patch.com.

Journatic says it will discontinue use of the freelance writer, Luke Campbell. A review of his previous stories for TribLocal did not find any other plagiarized or fabricated work.

Phil Rosenthal writes in his Chicago Tribune story that it’s “not yet clear what the long-term impact the suspension would have on Tribune Co.’s relationship with Journatic and what the short-term impact would be on TribLocal,” which laid off reporters when the Journatic deal was signed earlier this year.

Read the memo to the Chicago Tribune staff after the jump.

From: [Chicago Tribune Media Group president] Casanova, Vince
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2012 8:26 PM
To: [Chicago Tribune publisher] Hunter, Tony W.
Subject: Tribune suspends use of Journatic

Colleagues:

As a result of serious breaches of the Tribune’s journalistic standards, we have suspended indefinitely our use of Journatic as a third-party producer of editorial content for our suburban TribLocal publications.

A note to readers about our decision is being posted online tonight and will appear in Saturday’s editions. We wanted you to know about it at the same time.

We made the decision after it came to light Friday that a sports story published in this week’s Deerfield TribLocal contained elements that were plagiarized and fabricated.

Last week, we reported that the Tribune was investigating Journatic’s practices and editorial controls regarding its use of false bylines, also a violation of our editorial ethics policy. Journatic, a Chicago-based company, started producing editions of TribLocal earlier this year. Tribune Co. is an investor in Journatic.

The Chicago Tribune’s journalists are held to the highest standards and those standards must apply to all Chicago Tribune Media Group publications and their content suppliers.

The TribLocal story fell far short.

An investigation by Tribune editors determined that the writer of the story titled, “Epstein shows effectiveness on the mound,” did not contact the main subject.

One quote attributed to the subject originally was published in a June 7 Deerfield Review story by Bill McLean. A second quote in the TribLocal story was fabricated; it was based on information in a story by Steve Sadin that ran March 29 on Deerfield.Patch.com.

Journatic says it will discontinue use of the freelance writer, Luke Campbell. A review of his previous stories for TribLocal did not find any other plagiarized or fabricated work.

We take these issues very seriously. We will not use Journatic content until we are confident that it meets Chicago Tribune standards.

Our readers’ trust in the accuracy and integrity of our reporting is the cornerstone of our business. We will never compromise it.

Vince Casanova

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