The Intercept informs readers about articles that appear to have included fabricated quotes
The Intercept, the online property of First Look Media, today published a note to its readers outlining problems it had discovered with the work of one of its journalists.
“The employee, Juan Thompson, was a staff reporter from November 2014 until last month,” editor Betsy Reed wrote. “Thompson fabricated several quotes in his stories and created fake email accounts that he used to impersonate people, one of which was a Gmail account in my name.”
“An investigation into Thompson’s reporting turned up three instances in which quotes were attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed. In other instances, quotes were attributed to individuals we could not reach, who could not remember speaking with him, or whose identities could not be confirmed. In his reporting Thompson also used quotes that we cannot verify from unnamed people whom he claimed to have encountered at public events. Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods,” Reed wrote.
The Intercept has published corrections and editor’s notes to the articles that originally contained those quotes.
“The Intercept deeply regrets this situation,” Reed said. “Ultimately, I am accountable for everything we publish. The best way we can see to maintain the trust of readers is to acknowledge and correct these mistakes, and to focus on producing journalism we are proud of.”
Juan Thompson joined The Intercept in November of 2014 as a staff reporter. Thompson had previously been a
production assistant and reporter at WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago. Update: WBEZ said this afternoon that Thompson was a show intern at the station, not a production assistant reporter as his resume claims.
One of the stories retracted by The Intercept involves shooting by Dylan Root in Charleston, South Carolina. The article, published last June, now contains an editor’s note stating that the digital news organization “can no longer stand by the premise of this story. Both individuals said that they do not know of a cousin named Scott Roof.”
Editors appear to going through all stories authored by Thompson. One article entitled Mississippi Family Faces Jail Time for Cheering at High School Graduation contains a note saying that while one quote in the story cannot be confirmed, all other quotes have been confirmed by those in the story.
In its story on this the editor’s note, TalkingPointsMemo included a note that Thompson had written a piece for them and that they will be adding an editor’s note on “the status” of that article. Reading it, the story appears to be personal, with only quotes from family members.
Update: Josh Marshall on Wednesday published a post on Thompson’s piece for TPM, saying that they found no discrepancies with it.
So we have decided to remove the article from the site – not because we are saying that it contains falsehoods or errors but because we can no longer say to you as readers that we are confident to a reasonable certainty that it does not, which I take to be the implicit promise behind everything we publish.
The Intercept was launched in February 2014 by First Look Media, the news organization founded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Omidyar was the founder of eBay.