Delio's Sources Have Gone Missing...

from the doesn't-bode-well dept

In 2001, we noted that it was getting increasingly difficult for us at Techdirt to trust any story written by Michelle Delio. We had noticed a somewhat disturbing trend for her to turn non-stories into stories, often using odd quotes or simply by insinuating something was true. She was the main force behind widespread stories saying that Chinese hackers were going after American websites despite little actual proof. For the most part, though, we figured that she was simply trying to shoot for more sensational stories, by spinning non-stories around to make them seem more interesting -- but we didn't realize that some of them might be made up entirely. Then, earlier this year, the news came out that she might have pulled a Jayson Blair/Stephen Glass and made up stories completely. Now, a review of many of her articles in Wired News has discovered a disturbing pattern in her stories: dozens of people she quoted could not be found. In almost every case they seemed to have common names and common occupations living in large urban areas. Either this means that Delio had a knack for finding people who could easily "disappear" or it's possible she was making them up for the sake of the quotes. However, it sounds like at least the rest of the stories were legit -- they were just supported by quotes that can't be confirmed. Of course, in the old days, there were fact checkers who would check on these things. In the past few years, I've been interviewed for dozens of articles, and the only time I was ever called by a fact checker was for an article someone wrote for an airline magazine (which don't tend to have the greatest reputations for reporting). Maybe it's time to bring back the fact checker?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2005 @ 8:11am

    Interview with the investigator

    Gelf Magazine, which has been following the Delio issue closely, just published a brief interview with Adam Penenberg, who did the investigation for Wired News.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Greg Andrew, May 10th, 2005 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Interview with the investigator

    The results are unclear, since the unverifiable sources appear in only 1/7 of her stories and none of the quotes involved were vital to the stories. That leaves two possibilities; she was lazy and made the quotes up to provide bulk to her stories, or she was lazy and didn't bother keeping notes dealing with quotes of lesser importance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2005 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Interview with the investigator

    Actually, Penenberg looked at 160 stories and found 24 with one or more unverifiable sources. Who knows what he would have found if he examined the over 700 articles Delio wrote for Wired News.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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