AnnArbor.com posted a feel-good story over the weekend about magician Kip Barry setting up shop in space previously used by the Obama campaign. He tells freelancer Angela Smith that Kip Barry’s Magic and Performing Arts Center will be “a place to inspire creativity, imagination and the arts” — “a wonderful community-based combination magic studio/ performing arts center complete with a concession including cookies, cupcakes and soft drinks.”
That sounds really nice, but then AnnArbor.com commenters went to work and discovered that the magician (real name: Kristopher Paul Barry) has a lengthy criminal record, which includes telephone harassment, stalking, fraud, issuing a worthless check, and DUI. (He’s currently wanted for parole violation.)
So what does a news site do when “the rest of the story” is written in the comments section?
“I’ll admit this is not something I’ve experienced often,” says AnnArbor.com community news director Paula Gardner. In fact, “this is a unique situation in my career.” She decided not to remove the links to Barry’s criminal record.
The decision was made after consulting with Jen Eyer from MLive Media Group. We have no reason to believe they’re not accurate, plus there’s an active warrant (at least per the Collier County, Fla. Sheriff Dept website).
Second, we run these types of retail reports as a service to the community. We’ve learned that readers respond to stories about store openings, so [we] spend a fair amount of time reporting them. There’s usually not a lot of active investigation behind them, but we do routinely ask about previous stores, etc.
In this case, the writer had several questions and took several steps to verify accuracy, and that included internet searches. Kip Barry’s full legal name did not come up during that process. Had that happened and had we known this information ahead of time, I can’t say what our next step would have been.
My guess: The story would not have run.