Daily Archives: February 8, 2013

When WSFA-TV (Montgomery, Ala.) reporter Jennifer Oravet read in The Onion that PR firm Hill & Knowlton was advising the U.S. to cut ties with Alabama, she went to work, made a phone call and posted her findings on Facebook:

“I contacted the PR firm listed in this article, they claim the article is ‘ficticious’ and have no involvement in the alleged study.”

Jenn Oravet

Jenn Oravet

Actually, Jennifer, all Onion articles are fictitious. (Just one c.)

Did she know that when she put in the call to Hill & Knowlton? I called WSFA to find out and was told that Oravet is taking the day off. A newsroom colleague – she wouldn’t give me her name – insisted that the reporter/anchor knew the Hill & Knowlton/Alabama story was fake from the start.

“It doesn’t sound like it based on her Facebook post,” I said.

“Did you see her report?” the colleague asked.

I said I had, and figured she had been set straight about The Onion before going on air. Wrong, I was told — Oravet always knew it was a satirical paper.

WSFA Facebook commenters have their doubts, too. One writes:

“I don’t know what’s better, her original post, or her backpedaling to ‘cover up; her mistake. I’ve done dummy things like that (most recent when I applauded Beyonce at the inauguration… lip sync anyone?) but come on, admit you’re stupid sometimes just like the rest of us.”

Another person writes:

“LOL, so I read through the comments and I see that someone “demands” we give [her] a break. Seriously?? Someone takes the Onion as serious and we should give a break??? Eff that, this was a fail of epic proportions and should be exploited to the nth degree. There’s honestly no coming back from this! Only in Bama!”

I’ve emailed Oravet for comment, hoping she occasionally checks in on days off. I also called and emailed WSFA news director Scott Duff earlier this afternoon.

UPDATE: Duff called me on Monday morning and said: “Jennifer knew it was a fictitious site. We were not in any way hoodwinked by the Onion. …She is an excellent reporter and knew from the very start that the story was fictitious.”

* Read Oravet’s post about the Onion and comments about it (
* Watch Oravet’s report on the Onion story (
* PR firm advises U.S. to cut ties with Alabama (

“These laminated cards were distributed this week to Oregonian newsroom employees,” writes a Romenesko reader. “Note: nothing about holding government accountable, informing the public, comforting the afflicted, etc.”


There are several comments about this on my Facebook wall. Here’s what the Oregonian’s Joseph Rose writes:

I can tell you that The O’s newsroom is as vigilant as ever about watchdog journalism. If you need those values to be printed on a card in order to live them, you’re doing this journalism thing all wrong. I just spent eight months on an investigation into sleeping public-transit bus drivers, with the editors and the newspaper’s management standing unflinchingly behind me with whatever I needed — every step of the way.

* Earlier: Oregonian memo describes a beat reporter’s digital day (

papaA Romenesko reader writes: “A coupon was placed in [Chattanooga Times Free Press] employees’ last paychecks, good for a one-topping Papa John’s pizza. What a coincidence. A few days later, Papa Johns is the centerpiece on page 1 on the eve of the Super Bowl.”


About a week later, Papa John’s was featured in a pre-Super Bowl story.


I asked Times Free Press president Jason Taylor about his memo and the Papa John’s story. He responded: “Papa Johns is a great partner of ours but I can promise you advertising had no influence on that coverage. These two departments constantly battle. I can guarantee you there is no influence between the two. Our employee relations committee decided to give monthly gifts to our employees for fun. They chose advertisers to purchase the gifts. I wish they would have given us a discount. :-)”

emailChicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn defends the email interview: “Reporters have a right to ask tough questions. But they don’t have a right to dictate the medium of the answers.”

Since so many people are wary of being misquoted or blurting out an infelicity that goes viral, email is a comforting medium for those who want to be sure they say exactly what they want to say and have a written record of what they have said.

* In defense of the besieged email interview (

* Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News union members vote 200-35 to approve a contract that includes a 2.5% pay cut. (
* New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson says he’s working on a new strategy for the company. (
* AOL reports a surprise gain in revenue. ( | (
* News Corp.’s The Daily was “a great success in most respects,” says Robert Thomson. (
* TV station digitally erases Fargo Forum’s downtown sign. (
* SF Weekly editor settles his Super Bowl bet with Baltimore City Paper. (
* Deborah Needleman’s first issue of T: The New York Times Style Magazine has Lee Radziwill on the cover. (
* CNNer to Chris Christie: I was fat like you at one time; listen to the doctors. (
* The Diamondback bends a rule and lets its online editor author a campus senate bill. (
* Idaho pol’s spokesman is fired for tweeting “Me likey Broke Girls” after seeing Super Bowl ad. (
* Sports journalist: I might be the only gay man who can recite the final scores of all 47 Super Bowls. (
* Pulitzer-winner George Dohrmann and others discuss the state of sports journalism. (
* Principal confiscates copies of high school newspaper, saying a campus safety article could cause panic. (
* Where’s that robot with a feather duster that 20th-century journalists said would be around by now? (