I’m not easily surprised anymore about the transgressions of a select few in journalism who, for some confounding reason, decide to break the cardinal rule.
You know, the one about not making stuff up.
But honestly, I was a bit floored by the news about a week ago that Liane Membis, freshly graduated from Yale and then-intern at the Wall Street Journal, managed to so spectacularly forget that rule, supposedly fabricating sources and maybe quotes while on assignment for the paper. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t independently verify them and the people who supposedly said them.
Not only that, but as Mississippi-based investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell touched on, the quotes she decided to fabricate were plain and unspectacular.
Reeling it back a bit, Membis, who was assigned a fairly cut-and-dry story about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan for the WSJ, allegedly making up the quotes in the story.
She was at the paper for less than three weeks. Three weeks. Such alleged fabricated quotes are as followed:
“Sometimes I just come up on this bridge and stop and look around, right up here on the top,” said Katrina Maple, 64 years old. “It’s calming and relaxing. It feels like we finally got our backyard back.”
“It’s so calming to be here at night,” said 26-year-old Shaila Tompkins pushing a baby stroller. “I don’t feel scared to cross the bridge when its getting dark at all. It feels safe.”
I mean, come on. That’s rubbish. Why? WHY? WHY? WHY? I honestly hope we do find out why she did this. I’d be curious as all hell.
She told the Yale Daily News this: “For me, I know personally it was an honest reporting mistake that I made,” Membis said. “This is definitely something I’ve never done before.”
Okay. I guess if you had, you would have (allegedly) made up better quotes. As wannabes and young cub reporters, this is a bit enraging. It’s disappointing and pretty disgusting, honestly. It’s disrespectful to the trade and disrespectful to young journalists out there who have beat the pavement and busted their asses to attempt to build a career.
And as these things typically go, of course it was found that Membis, who also wrote for HuffPo, probably fabricated that too. Her article which was re-published from The New Journal at Yale, was also taken down. For the suspicion of the same thing. It’s mind-numbing really.
What we do is not hard. There is nothing THAT difficult about the basics of journalism. Tell the truth. Get it right. Check your sources. And certainly don’t make them up.
If you can’t get that bit right. What are you even doing in this job. Hopefully Membis learned from her mistakes. Her career is probably screwed at this point, but there’s always the beauty pageant.
photo courtesy of jag9889
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look