Always check public records before you run a sob story

(Photo credit: Nancy Stone)

For a Labor Day feature that Skokie Patch called “touching,” the Chicago Tribune profiled Henry Wolfson, the man on the right. He’s a 66-year-old longtime substitute teacher who has had to live in a homeless shelter the last four months because of money woes

“In this day and age, you’re thinking, how can an educated person have gotten himself to that point?” another teacher told reporter Barbara Brotman. “Why is that happening to someone like him?”

The reporter explained how Wolfson went from his Evanston apartment to a shelter: “Subbing is a poor sole source of income. The pay is low and the work inconsistent.” Wolfson ran out of money after trying to keep current on his health insurance payments, she reported.

Students felt so sorry for the teacher after reading the Labor Day feature that they went out and raised about $40,000.

Today, though, the Tribune tells the rest of the story: “The teacher had gambled away close to $180,000, a fact the newspaper failed to mention.”

Wolfson had received $247,000 in 2007 from a trust established by his late parents, as well as $12,000 in 2011 from the settlement of a lawsuit against his sister and her husband. …[He] said Thursday that he had lost about $180,000 betting on horses in a little more than a year at off-track betting parlors.

Mention of the inheritance was in public court files that the Tribune did not consult before the column appeared. The newspaper published a clarification Thursday that said the column about Wolfson should have laid out those details about his finances.

* Hard times hit well-regarded substitute teacher (
* Students rush to help homeless school teacher (
* Tribune failed to mention the teacher gambled away $180,000 (