August 28, 2006

Editor & Publisher's Evolving Implosion

This past Friday afternoon, an unscrupulous revision to a forgotten three year-old editorial by Greg Mitchell became the bomb that threatens to blow apart Editor & Publisher, a media industry trade publication, and it's parent company, VNU Media.

Mitchell wrote a two part editorial last week, "In Defense of War Photographers," attacking bloggers for exposing Reuters news photographers as the author of two faked photos, and calling into question other events bloggers felt were possibly staged.

I hypothesized on Friday that Mitchell's stirring defense of the suspected fakers might have arisen from his own past as someone who has admitted staging the news in a 2003 editorial.

The story should have died right there, but then, in a surprisingly stupid and petty act, someone with access to Mitchell's editorial decided to change the lede of the editorial to paint Mitchell in a more favorable light. Someone at Editor & Publisher was rewriting history within hours of unwanted attention cast upon the editorial by a handful of blogs.

Suddenly, the sleepy little editorial that had lain dormant for three years had detonated into charges of "journalistic malpractice" and calls for Mitchell to resign. Surely, someone who represents an industry trade publication as its editor must be held to the same standards as other journalists, if not higher standards.

And so while other fact errors in Mitchell's editorial have been addressed, Editor & Publisher pointedly refuse to even mention the blatant rewrite of the column's lede that suddenly brought this sleepy editorial back to the nation's attention.

Editor & Publisher and Greg Mitchell could easily defuse an increasingly volatile situation by simply admitting that Mitchell "tweaked" the article because he wanted to write off his fraud as a youthful indiscretion, but instead of taking a small bite of well-deserved crow, it seems Editor & Publisher and their parent company, VNU Media, may attempt instead to act as if nothing ever happened, and hope that the storm will pass without them having to admit their ever-compounding errors in judgement.

Mary Katharine Ham is trying to reach Mitchell at Editor and Publisher for comment, but so far has had no luck. I think she should try Will Thoretz, VNU's company spokesman instead. It seems that sooner rather than later that this particular ball will be in his court as Mitchell continues to hope that his fradulent past and present won't catch up to him.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 28, 2006 12:33 PM | TrackBack

I've been following this off and on, so excuse me if this comment is redundant - but has anyone informed Mr. Mitchell that at no time in 1967 did the water stop pouring over Niagra Falls? It actually occured in 1969. Linkeroo:

Now, I would imagine that this two year descrepancy between Mitchell's recollection and recorded history would be pretty easy to verify, considering the original article probably had a date to attach to it. It just seems like this would all be pretty easy to verify if someone could find the original article.

Posted by: shank at August 28, 2006 01:25 PM

Excuse me? Am I missing something? That someone made a mistake remembering an event from 35+ years ago and then corrects it when someone points out the mistake, is evidence of what?

And what does it show about your integrity when you bold and link to charges of 'staging the news' and 'calls for resignation' and they are links only to charges you've made?

Confederacy of Dunces is right.

Posted by: Ed at August 28, 2006 01:30 PM

Why do I care? Its an editorial. An opinion expressed by a writer. Not a factual news story. Its VNU's content. Why can't they change it every 5 seconds from now until the end of time? Online venues do it all the time. USAToday, WaPo, NYT, WSJ, etc.

This is so SOP, you don't like the message so attack the messenger. Big deal. He changed an editorial from 3 years ago. Where's the drama everytime a blogger adds an update to their blog "tweaking" the contents? A blog is an opinion of someone. An editorial is the same thing, different medium.

Posted by: matt a at August 28, 2006 01:35 PM


the issue of whether or not someone remembers the events of so long ago is irrlevant; it matters not at all to the issue at hand as far as I am concerned. The issue is that someone decided to edit Mitchell's 3-year-old editorial to cast him in a more favorable light within hours of it being brought back to the public's attention. It was and is a clear attempt to rewrite the past, and a breach of journalistic ethics.

That Mitchell or someone acting in his steady is willing to rewrite such a minor story in an attempt to mitigate their personal failings indicates that journalistic ethics have been abandoned in favor of "feel good" journalism.

I'm sorry if you could not take the time to click on the link back to the home page and read the several posts on the subject leading up to this one, but that is a sign of your intellectual laziness on your part, not an issue of integity on mine. Anyone with any questions cold easily read about the entire issue on this site if they had the least amount of curiosity; you obviously would rather whine and run.

matt a,

Online news sources can and do add to news stories as they evolve, and when they do, they show the date and time when the post was last updated. they do this at USAToday, WaPo, NYT, WSJ, and any other source you would like to cite. Even blogs--at least most of the more criedibly ones--post clear updates when they change or add to their stories, as I do here.

Mitchell's editorial dishonestly states it has not been updated since being published on May 20, 2003. Mitchell admitted to committing fraud once as a journalist, and committed another ethical violation when he changed the article admitting that three years later, to cast himself in a more favorable light and try to deflect criticism.

Why do I only have to explain the concept of ethics to liberals?

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 28, 2006 02:08 PM

CY - Nice non-answer. Notice how you didn't respond to his article, simply started the attacks. Must be amazing to be perfect. BTW, is this the update you are claiming wasn't there?

CORRECTION, August 27, 2006: Several readers of the 2003 story below have informed us that the water flowing over Niagara Falls was turned off in June 1969, not in 1967, as the article below stated. We have corrected or deleted that date and Mitchell’s age where they appeared in this column. Mitchell worked at the Gazette in the summers of 1968 and 1969 before graduating from college in 1970. The incident recounted below occurred in his second summer at the paper, not in the first, as the original had it.

I know, I know, they finally acknowledged the "modification" on Sunday, 2 days after your eminently predicted "implosion" entry. So is this still an "ethics" issue now that the paper has updated the column or you just don't like being held to the same level of scrutiny you give?

Posted by: matt a at August 29, 2006 07:42 AM

matt a,

Your reading comprehension skills are simply not up to par.

The correction in no way at all addresses the fact that Mitchell's article was reworded, unethically I made add, to cast a more favorable light on Mitchell. The correction It addresses timeline issues investigated by Dan Riehl and others that were in the original post, but refuses to even address the journalistic malpractice that has been committed.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at August 29, 2006 08:30 AM

CY - They added 8 words, they changed some of the 8 words to other words and ran a correction. As far as you know, the first correction was a draft of the rewored article that mistakenly got published.

Again, nothing about his actual article. Just attacks. SOP.

Posted by: matt a at August 29, 2006 11:58 AM