August 11, 2005, - 8:32 am
By Debbie Schlussel
You’d think USA Today learned after the Jack Kelley fiasco. Kelley, USA Today’s star investigative reporter, made up multiple stories out of wholecloth and/or plagiarized true ones, a la Jayson Blair. After a long reluctance by Gannett, the paper was forced to investigate after Kelley made up a militant Israeli settler who described plans to kill Arabs. The settler never existed–because, like most of his stories, that one was a fake.
Now, USA Today reporter Stephanie Armour wrote a full-page story in Monday’s paper profiling Larry Twombly, alleged CEO of a soda company, Hat Trick Beverages. Armour verified almost nothing in the story she reported. And it all turned out to be phony, including the existence of Hat Trick as a company, and the millions in soda sales Armour reported.
In today’s USA Today, Armour writes that most of the details in her piece were false–but she accepts NONE of the blame, pimping it off on Twombly’s publicist. In fact, she doesn’t even reference that she was the author of the original full-page set of lies.
Armour reported that Twombly was a Harvard grad, played hockey for the Crimson, was drafted by the NHL’s Boston Bruins, and played minor league hockey with the AHL’s Providence Bruins–all facts easily checked. But Stephanie Armour did not check them. Instead, she printed them as fact. But none of them were true. I wondered, being a college and pro hockey enthusiast (and former sports agent), why I never heard of Twombly.
Note to Stephanie: Publicists lie. They embellish, exaggerate, and, yes, even make things up. Note #2 to Stephanie: Reporters are supposed to verify facts that publicists feed them. When they don’t, it is their fault–NOT the publicists’, who–it is no revelation–lie for a living.
If USA Today is true to its new, revised commitment to accuracy in the post-Jack Kelley era (apparently, the fact-checking by editors is still non-existent), the paper will fire Ms. Armour immediately. They fired Kelley (after much resistance to doing so) and fired political correspondent Tom Squiteri for plagiarizing.
Let’s see if the female reporters at USA Today get equal treatment. If they do, Armour will be gone by day’s end. (Ditto for her editors.)
I’m not holding my breath.
Apparently, something is in the water at Gannett. A few months ago, I reported on Detroit News (then owned by Gannett and sold recently) “star” reporter David Shepardson’s made-up article–completely un-fact-checked, a la Armour–and he’s still working there, too.
Tags: author, Boston Bruins, CEO, David Shepardson, Debbie Schlussel, Ditto, former sports agent, Gannett, Harvard, Hat Trick Beverages, hockey, Jack Kelley, Jayson Blair, Jayson Blair Revisited, Larry Twombly, NHL, political correspondent, reporter, star investigative reporter, Stephanie Armour, Tom Squiteri, USA Today