Lies, lies, lies, yeah, they’re gonna get you

If you practice journalism and don’t tell the truth, sooner or later, the lies are going to get you – into a whole lot of trouble.

Last week saw a trifecta of this type of journalistic indiscretion.

The story generating the most buzz came late in the week when The American Life xx Ira Glass retracted a piece the radio show had run in January called “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory” on poor working conditions and other abuses at the Chinese factory that makes Apple iPads after it was discovered that Mike Daisey, the writer/monologist who did the piece, made up some of his facts.

His embellishments came to light after a reporter for the Marketplace radio show talked to Daisey’s Chinese translator, who disputed much of what Daisey had said. Glass faulted TAL’s fact checking department, which had vetting Daisey’s piece, for not doing a better job of vetting the piece before it aired – and devoted its entire program last weekend to setting the record straight.

Other media outlets continue to weigh in on Daisey’s duplicity, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and NPR’s On the Media program (which as I write this, still has 15 minutes to go and is generating a ton of online comments). It’s also caused some media critics to dig up previously published stories questioning factual errors and fictionalized material in supposedly journalist work from Malcolm Gladwell and David Sedaris.

The TAL story wasn’t the only one. Also last week, writers were talking about Jon Flatland, a long-time newsman, columnist and one-time former president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, who was exposed for copying other writers’ humor columns for years and passing them off. According to this report from Poynter, the journalism training group, when Flatland was confronted by another humor writer about work he’d cribbed, he abruptly resigned as interim managing editor of the Times in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota and left town.

Here in Oregon, the (Portland) Oregonian last week fired long-time breaking news editor Kathleen Glanville after discovering she’d lied to the paper about the circumstances surrounding the death of the paper’s editorial page editor, Bob Caldwell,  who had been a close friend. An Oregonian reporter telephoned Caldwell’s house as part of reporting this front-page story on his death and spoke to Glanville, who was there on her day off consoling his wife. Caldwell’s wife had shared with Glanville the location and circumstances of his death – in the apartment of a 23-year-old woman who had been exchanging sex acts for money for textbooks. But Glanville told the reporter that Caldwell had died in his car, a fact the paper didn’t learn until the following day when it obtained the official police report.

The Oregonian ran a clarification the following day, and Glanville took to Facebook to thank the paper for many happy years of employment and say she understood why the paper felt the need to fire her for violating journalistic ethics. “There are times in people’s lives when you have to make a decision about what is most important,” she wrote. “I am sorry that my decision — which came from love — cost me my job. I will always cherish the many people who I have worked beside for so many years.”

Why do reporters and editors lie?

I contacted Craig Silverman, who writes Poynter’s Regret the Error blog and is an authority on newspaper industry screw ups for his take  on the problem.

In the case of Daisey and the Oregonian editor,”People felt their lies served a higher cause and purpose,” Silverman says. “They were able to justify their actions to themselves, so anything was fair game after that.”

Aside from that, journalists lie because everybody lies, Silverman says, whether they’re a doctor, carpenter, journalist, athlete, postal worker etc. ”This doesn’t excuse it, but it means we have to do a better job of sniffing out the lies,” he says.

To better understand the situation, Silverman suggested reading this piece written by Jack Shafer, Reuters’ columnist covering politics and the press. In it, Shafer says:

I’m still waiting for somebody who got caught lying while practicing journalism to say why he did it. I have my theory: 1) They lie because they don’t have the time or talent to tell the truth, 2) they lie because think they can get away with it, and 3) they lie because they have no respect for the audience they claim to want to enlighten. That would be an ideal subject for a one-man theatrical performance.

What about you? Have you ever been tempted by deadlines or a dull source to embellish the truth? Ever made gotten away with making something up? Ever caught another reporter in a lie? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:05:19 GMT
Tags: David Sedaris, Jon Flatland, Malcolm Gladwell, Media Business, Mike Daisey, Oregonian, plagiarism, reporters who lie,
Navi Mumbai E-Commerce | Northeast Cobb E-Commerce | Kolkata E-Commerce | Walsenburg E-Commerce | Gilbert E-Commerce | St George E-Commerce | Fort Collins E-Commerce | Minneapolis E-Commerce | McKinney E-Commerce | Atlanta E-Commerce |

David Sedaris

Jon Flatland

Malcolm Gladwell

Need Freelance Writer Market? Check out our member profiles:

City & Colour Design Studio Profile
City & Colour Design Studio

We are a small collaboration of designers and programmers from around the world. We work with Web, Print, Social Media, Branding, Packaging and SEO. If you can think it, we can design it.

Minneapolis, Minnesota US
Cynthia Sowden Profile
Cynthia Sowden

Need an ad, a brochure, a video script, a feature article or web content? I give you creative copy, fast turnaround, and exceptional service. Writing, editing, proofreading at below-agency prices.

Minneapolis, Minnesota US
Northeast Cobb
MarketingRT Profile

Integrated, High Yield, Marketing Tailored to Your Business Needs MarketingRT an interactive and online marketing company. REAL TIME marketing experiences, enhanced by services.

Northeast Cobb, Georgia US
St George
Steven Lee Profile
Steven Lee

From direct-marketing to corporate communications, and everything in between, Steve has done it all. He wants to help you look your very best! Put Steve's twenty years of experience to work for you!

St George, Utah US
Credence BPO Pvt Ltd Profile
Credence BPO Pvt Ltd

An ISO 9001:2008 certified and STPI registered company based in India, with offices in UK and USA. Our Services: Web Development, Design, Content & Article Writing, SEO, SEM, SMM, Native English.

Kolkata, West Bengal IN
Navi Mumbai
Free Design Quotes

Considering a Business Checking Account

It’s a good idea to keep your business finances separate from your personal finances and you might d

What’s in your freelance writing travel bag?

This week, I’m hitting the road not once but twice for a work or work/pleasure trip. That̵

5 Reasons Your Writing Is Misunderstood

Miscommunication–It’s the bane of every good writer, yet all too often it happens. What

Why You Can’t Afford to Be an Undercover Freelancer

I love detective movies. I really do. There’s nothing more thrilling than when the detective g

Thank-you to Our June Advertisers

It’s summer and it’s hot outside, but some of our advertiser’s products are even h

Article Tags
Freelance Writer Market Articles
Marketing| writing| Featured| Freelancing| How-To| Blogging| Lifestyle| Inspiration| General| blogs| Work at Home Parents| Managing Clients| writing tips| Magazine Writing| Freelance Finance| productivity| Getting Started| Web Content| social media| Getting Clients|

Freelance Writer Market Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional Valid CSS!