The Unethical Timeline  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   August/September 2005

The Unethical Timeline   

A look at the journalism industry’s recent spate of plagiarism and fabrication cases and other transgressions:

By Kara Wedekind
Wedekind is an AJR editorial assistant.      


March 21

MIT Technology Review removes two articles from its Web site by freelance writer Michelle Delio because the magazine could not verify the existence of sources or the accuracy of the articles. The review subsequently found source verification problems in five more of Delio's articles. On May 9, Wired News said it could not find sources in 24 stories Delio did for the magazine. The writer told the MIT Technology Review that she had deleted e-mails from her sources but that all of her quotes were legitimate.

April 8

The Detroit Free Press announces that it is launching an investigation into sports columnist Mitch Albom's work because one of his columns, filed April 1, reported events that didn't happen. Albom described two NBA players in the stands of an April 2 NCAA basketball game. The players were not at the game, though they had told Albom that they would be there. The Free Press' investigation found no evidence of similar deceptions but did uncover several instances in which the columnist did not attribute quotes taken from other news organizations and times when Albom slightly altered those quotes. On April 23, the paper announced that Albom and four others would be disciplined but did not specify their punishments.

April 14

Peter Gammons of ESPN.com issues a "reader's note" explaining that he did not cite material from Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Henson in a sidebar to one of Gammons' columns.

April 15

The Boston Globe says it will no longer use freelance writer Barbara Stewart who fabricated a story on a Canadian seal hunt. The hunt was delayed a day due to inclement weather, yet Stewart reported that it had already happened. Stewart was not at the site where the hunt was to take place but wrote as if she were.

April 19

The Los Angeles Times says it fired reporter Eric Slater after his March 29 article about Cal State Chico fraternity hazing was found to contain numerous inaccuracies, several named and unnamed sources that could not be verified, fabrications and wrongly attributed information.

April 23

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announces the resignation of staff writer Al Levine, saying he plagiarized passages from the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Orlando Sentinel in two articles about the Daytona 500 race.

April 28

Tampa Tribune Executive Editor Janet S. Weaver says in a statement that reporter Brad Smith resigned after fabricating part of an article on the towing industry. Smith wrote about a woman leaving a night club and discovering her Jeep had been towed. While the car had been towed, the woman was at home that night and had lent the Jeep to a friend.

May 6

USA Today announces that Tom Squitieri, a staff writer, did not attribute quotes from a 2004 Indianapolis Star article that he used in a March 28 piece. Squitieri apologized and resigned.

May 12

The Sacramento Bee announces that Diana Griego Erwin, a columnist, resigned during the paper's investigation of fabrication charges against her. The examination ultimately looked at Griego Erwin's work during 12 years at the Bee and found 43 sources that could not be verified. The columnist denied any wrongdoing and said she had quit because of personal problems.

May 19

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel says it has begun to investigate the work of a high school intern and freelancer, Nazish Ahmad, who used passages from a March 7 Miami Herald article without attribution in her May 18 story. The review found that Ahmad used material without attribution in five of 10 of her articles.

June 2

Chris Cecil, associate managing editor for the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, is fired after the Miami Herald alerted the newspaper that some sections of Cecil's columns were taken from Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.'s work. Pitts, tipped off by a reader to the theft, had pinpointed eight instances of plagiarism.

June 18

Newsday reports that Alex Storozynski, editor of amNewYork, a free commuter paper published by Tribune Co., resigned after officials discovered that his June 1 story contained unattributed passages from washingtonpost.com. Storozynski said his departure was due to a conflict with Tribune Co.'s managerial style.

June 24

American Public Media's "Marketplace" radio program apologizes for a June 13 segment in which Gabriel Wisdom, a freelance contributor, stole passages from Slate. "Marketplace" found five other similar instances, and Wisdom was subsequently dropped from the program. He claimed that he was not a journalist and was not aware of journalistic standards.

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