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Daily Archives: December 4, 2012

Karen Jeffrey, who has worked at the Cape Cod Times since 1981, fabricated sources in dozens of stories over the years, according to the paper’s editor and publisher. “In an audit of her work, Times editors have been unable to find 69 people in 34 stories since 1998, when we began archiving stories electronically,” says the execs’ apology to readers. (There were problems with at least 36 of Jayson Blair’s stories a decade ago, the New York Times reported in 2003.)

Karen Jeffrey

An investigation into the 59-year-old reporter’s work was launched after editors questioned her Veterans Day story, which featured “Ronald Chipman and his family” in the lead.

“The editors were unable to find the Chipman family,” write publisher Peter Meyer and editor Paul Pronovost. “When asked if she could help locate the family, Jeffrey said she could not because she threw away her notes.”

The Times explanation/apology continues:

A story a month earlier featured four people we could not find. Then another story with unfound sources. Then another. In our initial examination, going back to Aug. 1, 2011, we were unable to find 15 sources in six stories.

An expanded review of Jeffrey’s work uncovered dozens of additional stories with suspect sources. We spot-checked work prior to 1998, when we relied on paper clips for archives, but have not found any questionable sourcing. We do not have a full archive of each reporter’s clips prior to 1998.

Jeffrey admits fabricating people in her stories, says the paper, and is no longer at the Times.

* An apology to readers (capecodonline.com)

Last Friday, Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times posted a story about a 39-year-old woman who suffered from persistent genital arousal disorder. “The rare syndrome,” wrote Leonora LaPeter Anton, “seems to violate one of the basic elements of human sexuality: our ability to control our sexual lives. In essence, it makes desire irrelevant, stripping away all psychological pleasure from sex and leaving only the mechanics of arousal.”

A day later, the woman featured in the lengthy Times piece was found dead; Gretchen Molannen committed suicide, according to the sheriff’s office.

Gretchen Molannen

Blogger and frequent Tampa Bay Times critic Peter Schorsch contends “the Times is partially responsible for what has happened.” He writes: “The moment I read this story I questioned why it was being published by the Times, other than the story’s obvious ability to drive readership and online traffic.”

While none of us will likely ever really know why Molannen committed suicide, we can all do the math. Woman tells story to the newspaper. Newspaper publishes sensational story. Woman commits suicide the day the story is published online.

One plus one equals blood on the Times‘ hands.

Poynter’s paper says the woman welcomed the feature. Here’s its editor’s note:

During the final editing process, the Times read the entire story to Molannen and made small changes she requested. She sent this email on Nov. 28:

“Thank YOU for taking an interest in doing a story for me! I am flattered that you cared so much to want to help. I just hope this will educate people that this is serious and really exists, and that other women who are suffering in silence will now have the courage to talk to a doctor about it. If men have suffered with the shame of impotence or even priapism, now it’s time for women to get help as well. Thank you for your patience with me and for devoting so much time to this. I’m sure your editor is very proud of your work and I’m excited to see my own story online.”

Blogger Schorsch’s view: “No matter how good the writing, no matter how interesting the subject matter, a story about a woman ‘who must masturbate for hours for just a few minutes of relief’ did not belong in a mainstream newspaper.”

My question: Does Poynter’s paper routinely read entire stories to profile subjects prior to publication?

* Woman featured in Tampa Bay Times story commits suicide after it’s published (tampabay.com)
* Tampa Bay Times has blood on its hands, says blogger (saintpetersblog.com)

Earlier:
* Persistent genital arousal disorder brings woman agony, not ecstasy (tampabay.com)
* Blogger figures Times is using orgasm story as a “sure way to drive web traffic”
(saintpetersblog.com)

* Washington Post has canceled its tuition reimbursement program. “We realize that many of you have relied on this benefit to enhance your professional development,” says an email to staff. “With our current financial challenges, however, we must balance providing the most essential employee benefits with our urgent need to reduce costs.” (washingtoncitypaper.com)
* Former Tampa Tribune editor Duke Maas joins Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as deputy managing editor/sports. (tbo.com)
* Bob Costas will be on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” tonight. (nytimes.com)
* Top chefs rate food critics and give Jonathan Gold the top score. (thedailymeal.com)
* Gannett’s cash stockpile is nearly a quarter-billion dollars. (gannettblog.blogspot.com)
* Jim Schachter: My mission is to bring a spirit of enterprising journalism to the WNYC newsroom. (streetfightmag.com)
* Amazon.com kills thousands of book reviews without explaining why. (nytimes.com)
* Jordan Kurzweil: What I would have done had I owned The Daily. (gigaom.com)
* Couple who met in Reason.com’s comment section name their baby Reason. (reason.com)
* Les Moonves won’t be giving any advice to new CNN chief Jeff Zucker. (mediabistro.com)
* Noted: 32% of young people use social media in the bathroom. (theatlanticwire.com)

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells is taking questions from readers, and curiously so far not one is about his review of Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant. (He’s moved on from that and not posting those questions? UPDATE: Those questions have now been posted.)

Here are a few things we learn about Wells and his job from the Q-and-A:

“For a full-length review that is subject to the star system (whether the restaurant ends up getting any stars or not), Times critics always visit the restaurant at least three times. At least.”

“There are a few adjectives that just make my skin crawl, like sinful. The Times would probably frown on orgasmic, with good reason.”

“I’m sure if I ran a word-frequency program over all my reviews to date I’d be mortified by how many dishes were rich, or fragrant, or aromatic, or delicate, or gentle, or crisp, or crunchy.”

“When I lived in the East Village and was always in debt, I ate pierogies at least once a week.”

“I’m lucky enough to have a newspaper that believes in the value of wide-ranging restaurant criticism, and is willing to pay for it, so for the moment I’m not making all my dining decisions based on cost. It won’t last forever, though.”

“I’m not wild about green bell peppers, especially when they’re raw. They contain a chemical that is very potent and hard to ignore.”

“I do wish there were a way to filter out all the Yelp reviews that are based solely on brunch, but that might not leave very much content.”

Regarding disguises: “I can’t rock a wig like Dolly Parton. I’ve looked into it, and quickly discovered that hairpieces that are even remotely convincing cost thousands and thousands of dollars. …I wish I could eat all my meals in anonymity. But many of the restaurants I review put more time and energy into spotting me than I could ever put into going unspotted.”

* Pete Wells, restaurant critic, answers readers’ questions (nytimes.com)
* Earlier: Restaurant critics recall their death threats, funeral wreaths from chefs (jimromenesko.com)

The Chicago Newspaper Guild urged its members to boycott last night’s holiday bowling party, thrown by Chicago Sun-Times parent Wrapports. (The two sides are in “entering a crucial stage” of contract talks.)

Guild executive director Craig Rosenbaum tells Romenesko readers: “The boycott went very well. We hear that very few Guild members showed up.” (A Sun-Times management rep tells me “the place was packed” and that “all the bold-faced names” — including Richard Roeper — was at the 10Pin lanes party.)

Here’s the notice that the Guild posted on its site:

STRIKE BACK!

Guild members: Boycott the Wrapports Dec. 3 holiday bowling party.

We’ve given enough. We have nothing to SPARE.

Don’t let them PIN us down.

Make the company understand we have to stop the Memorandum of Understanding. It is time to take back what is ours.

The sooner, the better.

Neither side can throw the promise of our future into the GUTTER.

Past ownership has cancelled holiday parties while declaring poverty. This ownership promises open bar and a DJ in “tough” times.

The SPIN is clear.

Without the Guild’s hard work of the present and the sacrifices of the past, there would be no Wrapports to host a party.

We demand respect.

We will stand together and move forward with spirit.

My question — do other news organizations spend money on holiday parties? (Years ago, Romenesko readers shared stories about Christmas bonuses; I’m guessing those are no longer handed out.)

* Chicago journalists plan benefit for unemployed (or just poor) colleagues (chicagoreader.com)

Letter to Romenesko

From BEN BOTKIN: Here’s a case of interesting timing of stories for Northwest readers of The Oregonian and the Seattle Times.

The Oregonian ran a heartwarming feature about the Friday birth of a baby elephant at the Oregon Zoo in its Saturday edition. (It appeared online on Friday.)

By sheer coincidence, the Seattle Times launched a two-part series over the weekend about elephants dying out American zoos. The lede of its first story told about the 1962 birth of a baby elephant at — you guessed it — the Oregon Zoo.

If you check the comments section of The Oregonian, readers picked up on the irony too. The good news is that the coincidence probably cannot be credited to PR people doing damage control in advance of the Seattle Times piece running. After all, they don’t have any say over when elephants go into labor.

By the way, I don’t work at either one of those newspapers.

* Adorable elephant born at the Oregon Zoo (oregonian.com)
* Elephants are dying out in America’s zoos (seattletimes.com)

UPDATE: “The Seattle Times-Oregonian elephant story gets better,” a Times staffer emails. “Check this out.” [The story is headlined, “Portland’s baby elephant belongs to traveling show.”] || UPDATE II: An Oregonian staffer suggests I counter with this link.

McCloskey

Stars and Stripes national correspondent Megan McCloskey was surprised to see her Oct. 27 story about Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan’s beard posted on examiner.com — under John Pretti’s byline. (He has one original paragraph at the end of the post.)

She sent the reporter this complaint:

Jack,

It appears you have plagiarized my story on Examiner.com. This story with your byline is lifted from the Stars and Stripes word for word, as you can clearly see here.

Please have it taken down immediately.

Thank you,

Megan McCloskey

McCloskey tells Romenesko readers: “This was the initial response I received yesterday before he sent the longer apology note” that’s posted below.

Whoops, my bad. I thought I gave you credit since that is where I did see the story. Busted.

It has been removed. I did add my 2 cents at the end, though.

Jack

He then sent this apology:

Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 8:27 AM
To: McCloskey, Megan
Subject: Apologize

Megan:

It was not my intention to pass off your story as my own. I screwed up since I always give proper credit when I use information from someone else especially when I quote word for word. Writing, as you know, does not always come from personal information and other sources must be used. Your story just had to be reprinted and I did, but I failed to give you all the credit. For this, I deeply apologize. If you sued me for my earnings, you would get a whopping $3.65. We make practically nothing on our articles. It is just a hobby.

I would like to rewrite the story with your permission and quote you plus give you all the credit due. My entire military career has included reading the Stars and Stripes every day. You guys do a great job for the troopers. Keep up keeping them informed.

John “Jack” Pretti

“I discovered the plagiarism yesterday when I was doing a search for news stories about the victims of the Fort Hood shootings,” McCloskey writes in an email. “The blurb beneath the google result for the Examiner.com page showed a quote a source had given me for my story, so I assumed that the Examiner’s story had simply cited that portion my news story. I was appalled to find my story in its entirety – and without a single reference to Stars and Stripes. I scrolled looking for a credit to my newspaper, thinking surely no one would so blatantly rip off an entire news story, but there was nothing but John Pretti’s byline.”

* McCloskey’s Stars and Stripes story | Cached version of examiner.com’s story

Journalism prof, blogger and newspaper adviser Dan Reimold acknowledges that his best j-schools list — updated for 2013 — “is not meant to be all-inclusive or objective,” and is “strongly biased in favor of programs exciting me in the digital journalism realm and in some way aligned with quality campus media and professional publishing opportunities.” (He focuses on undergraduate programs, so schools like Columbia, CUNY, UC Berkeley, and Stanford aren’t included.)

* Best journalism schools and programs at U.S. colleges and universities (collegemediamatters.com)
* Earlier: Syracuse named best journalism school in NewsPro poll (jimromenesko.com)


* “Why not offer to help him instead of snapping a picture?” a New York Post reader asks after seeing the cover on the left. (@richiewilsonNYC)
* “Was it proper for the Post to splash such a harrowing shot of a man about to die on its cover?” (Gawker)
* The freelance photographer says he hoped the train driver would see his flash. (nypost.com)
* “Guy on the tracks is the Kitty Genovese of our time.” (@nickconfessore)

Also…
* In the spring of 2011, Roger Ailes tried to get David Petraeus to run for president. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up,” he tells Bob Woodward, who has a recording of the Petraeus-Ailes rep meeting. (washingtonpost.com)
* No more [expletive deleted] for veteran Philly mob reporter now that he’s blogging without an editor. (phillymag.com)
* Fox News is still fighting the “War on Christmas.” (nymag.com)
* Wal-Mart stops talking to The Huffington Post — again. (politico.com)
* Ex-Review-Journal publisher: I never let my views of Harry Reid affect news decisions. (lvrj.com)
* Check out the trailer for a documentary on the demise of American newspapers. (vimeo.com)
* CNNers look forward to Jeff Zucker’s arrival. (mediabistro.com)
* “I am the office grandmother now, and it’s time to go,” writes Baltimore Sun reporter Mary Gail Hare. (baltimoresun.com)
* Philadelphia Inquirer metro columnist Monica Yant Kinney quits daily journalism. (phillymag.com)
* South Dakota’s richest dog reacts to news of The Daily folding. (observer.com)
* New York Times standards editor goes over “our latest batch of homophone problems.” (nytimes.com)
* James Whelan, the first editor of the Washington Times, dies at 79. (nytimes.com)

Advance Publications’ Cleveland Plain Dealer has told the Newspaper Guild Local 1 that it plans to reduce the number of newsroom union members to 110 next year, or about one-third of the Guild membership. “The paper said most of the reduction would be through layoffs, though some employees will be offered jobs at cleveland.com,” says a message on the Save the Plain Dealer Facebook page. “The Plain Dealer is pressing for the ability to handpick who stays and who goes. The company also wants to reduce the newsroom by at least 20 more positions in the following years.”

* Plain Dealer tells Guild it plans to cut newsroom positions (facebook.com/SaveThePlainDealer)
* A “Save the Plain Dealer” party is planned for Thursday (nytimes.com)
* Claim: Advertisers aren’t concerned about PD cutting its publishing schedule (crainscleveland.com)
* Earlier: Fearing loss of 7-day-a-week paper, staff launches “Save the Plain Dealer” campaign (cleveland.com) | (change.org)