The New York Times has dropped an embarrassing editors’ note at the foot of a story on Dylann Roof, the accused perpetrator of last week’s Charleston church massacre:
Editors’ Note: June 22, 2015
An earlier version of this article included a reference to a British blogger who claimed that Dylann Roof’s manifesto was similar to earlier blog entries Mr. Roof had written. That passage was removed from the article after questions were raised about the blogger and his claims. Subsequently, the blogger said in a post online that he had fabricated the information about Mr. Roof’s supposed earlier blog entries.
The note properly explains the situation, though it leaves out the juicy detail that this British blogger, 16-year-old Benjamin Wareing, told the New York Times the following: “Among his writings were images of 9/11 ‘memes’ and of ‘My Little Pony,’ Mr. Wareing said,” according to an earlier version of the article by Frances Robles. The bogus stuff from Wareing was on the New York Times Web site for just a matter of hours on Saturday afternoon. And Wareing himself wrote a post explaining his deceptions:
In conclusion, I want to express how utterly disappointed and disgusted I am at New York Times and the corresponding reporter, Frances Robles. Not only was she vague and boring at obtaining ‘facts’, her actual obtaining of such facts was done so very clearly effortless and lazy.
New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has this to say about the breakdown:
In the midst of the deadline scramble last week, some erroneous information was included in one Times story for about three hours online. As Fusion reported, a British teenager set out to trick The Times with some bad information — and succeeded. The story now carries an editor’s note. And the incident proves once again the need to verify as fully as possible. “If your mother tells you she loves you,” says the journalism aphorism, “check it out.” Not enough of that happened here; and clearly should have. News in the digital age is happening at warp speed. Verification and caution are more necessary than ever.
Fusion reports that Wareing has his sights set on a journalism career: “I don’t want to be someone who reports complete lies… this makes me want to try harder to make a better change in reporting.” As soon as he stops fabricating stuff, that is.