March 3, 2017 Last Updated 12:26 pm

Former ‘The Intercept’ employee arrested in connection to Jewish community center threats

Friday update: WordPress plug-in for Apple News app adds ability to edit JSON component, adds support for additional modifications to themes

Today promises to be such a wild news day that I think the chances that many loyal TNM will bother to tune into this website are practically nil. Let’s face it, when the news explodes like it has, do you really want to be reading about digital edition apps, and newly redesigned websites? I doubt it, and frankly I don’t want to write about them, either.

We are living in bizarre times. Need an example?

Earlier today news broke that a man was arrested in connection to the recent threats against Jewish institutions. The FBI reported his name to be Juan Thompson, and he is from St. Louis.

If that name sounds familiar there is a reason. He is, apparently, the same guy who used to work for The Intercept, the news website that is part of First Look Media (the news organization founded by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay). Thompson worked for The Intercept until February of last year when he was fired for making up quotes and sources.

“An investigation into Thompson’s reporting turned up three instances in which quotes were attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed,” editor-in-chief Betsy Reed wrote last year. “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.”

This story on Dylann Roof was at the center of the controversy.

The Washington Post story on the arrest currently doesn’t mention The Intercept connection – likely because it is such a bizarre twist to the story that they want to make sure it is right. I can’t blame them. The comments on the story are exploding with Trump supporters blaming the whole thing on Obama, Bernie Sanders, and liberals, in general. Those wanting to believe that the white nationalist meme is false, and that the press is making it all up will have a field day today.

The reason behind the threats appears to be a failed romantic relationship. Ah love, it will make you do stupid things, like phone in threats to Jewish community centers.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

After she broke up with him in July 2016, Thompson emailed the executive director of a New York-based social services organization where she worked and posed as an executive producer of a national news organization. The email claimed that the ex-girlfriend had been pulled over for drunken driving and was being sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the southern district of New York.

After the email, Thompson texted the girlfriend to say that he is computer had been hacked and that he was not responsble for the harassment, that he was sending her money as compensation, and that he had been shot in a robbery, had gone into cardiac arrest, and was being taken off life support, the indictment said.

Prosecutors said it did not appear that Thompson had really been shot.

I’ve always thought that Thompson needed serious help, this episode seems to prove it.

Update: Things move fast, the Post just added a sentence identifying Thompson as a former journalist with The Intercept. Also, I changed the headline here to say “freelancer” as I’m not sure he was an actual employee of The Intercept.

Another update, this time from The Intercept. They use the word “employee” so the headline above gets changed once again (it might not be the last time):

We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.

That episode was yet another example of why fact-checkers should be part of any editing desk. And if you don’t have an editing desk… get one.

The WordPress plug-in for Apple News was updated yesterday. For those who like to mess around with code, the update adds an interface allowing users to customize the JSON component. That seems risky to me, as I can’t code with a … but I’m sure there are those of you out there who like to mess around with code.

There are other changes, as well:


  • Added an interface for customizing of component JSON
  • Added support for making certain components inactive
  • Added hanging punctuation option for pull quotes
  • Added additional styling options for drop caps
  • Added support for nested images in lists
  • Added support for Instagram oEmbeds
  • Updated the interface and workflow for customizing cover art

Let me just say that this is starting to get interesting. TNM’s traffic via Apple News is still modest, and very much depending on whether the Apple News team selects a TNM story to feature. But as TNM is now moving towards talking about issues outside of just digital publishing, the frequency of stories being featured has increased.

TNM is still not monetizing its Apple News feed, mainly because the interface for that still be very bad. It remains a mystery to me why Apple is so bad in this area, but as I have said many times before, these issues will never be resolved as long as Apple remains so insular, and refuses to hire a media liaison.

You can always count on The Daily Mail to find something bizarre.

Today that they report on the dangers of pornography. Specifically, collecting six tons of it. Apparently you can have too much of a good thing:

“A lonely Japanese man who amassed more than six tons of porn died when a huge pile of magazines fell on top of him,” the British tabloid reported.

“And even more tragically, the man’s body was only discovered six months later when the landlord entered the flat to find out why the rent had not been paid.”

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