Kitsap Sun reporter Jeff Graham recently wrote about four golfers all hitting holes-in-one during a fundraising tournament. One of the “lucky” men told him: “We were throwing darts with the gods today. Everybody was just going nuts.”
Last Wednesday, the golfer who reported the holes-in-one to Graham — comedian Cris Larsen — announced during an impromptu Rotary Club meeting speech that he had fooled the newspaper, that the “holes-in-one” were accomplished by rolling balls in the hole using their hands.
Sun editor David Nelson was at the meeting and says he was “flabbergasted” by Larsen’s 5-minute confession to the 40 or so Rotarians.
“My jaw dropped, but I stayed composed,” he says in a phone interview. “It was like I got gut-punched.”
The editor left the meeting shortly after Larsen admitted the hoax (“I turned to the guy next to me and said, ‘I need to get out of here'”), went to the newsroom and wrote Graham an email about what he’d just heard that morning.
The reporter let readers know he was furious. (“Actually, we toned [his column] down,” says Nelson. “He was more angry in the first version.”)
This was deception. This was a willful misrepresentation of what happened on the course that day, with the knowledge that we were planning to publish a story about it.
This isn’t the type of thing I’d expect from [McCormick Woods golf director Shawn Cucciardi], who didn’t return messages left at McCormick Woods or his home over the past two days. To say I’m disappointed he let me run with a story he knew was bogus would be an understatement.
He’s no longer a source I can trust.
Graham notes that “this type of hoax brings that relationship between reporter and source into question” and wonders if “the next time a high school soccer coach calls in a 5-0 win, should I question whether it was a real game or a video game?”
Has anything like this happened to you? Tell us in comments.