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May 10, 2005
Online Journalism Investigating Itself
According to an AP story (here on USA Today), an investigation by Adam Penenberg into articles written by WIRED contributor Michelle Delio has turned up more than 40 "color quote" sources who could not be identified. Alert readers may recognize Penenberg as the person who exposed fabricated stories by Stephen Glass in The New Republic.
Delio has pointed out in her own defense that these quote sources were supporting main news points in the stories, which she says have not been questioned.
However, WIRED, in its lengthy report on the matter, noted four stories in which "unconfirmed sources arguably play a more prominent role," and has edited these stories to reflect its findings but left the stories online. Other publications have taken more conservative views: MIT's Tech Review pulled two of Delio's stories, and Infoworld edited stories to remove non-sourceable quotes.
The question here is did Delio make up the quotes or simply fail to keep adequate notes on the contact information for these sources? As someone who is himself habitually disorganized, I have some sympathy for a person who didn't keep notes on things she considered minor that happened some years ago. Given the general air of hostility towards online journalim, it'll be interesting to see how it responds to scandals in the family.
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