Friday, April 14, 2006

Sextuplets: Six Times the Grief for an AP Journalist

I must be learning something in class. At least I am more aware of what’s going on in the news. Here is a follow up story that could almost have been a case study in our Media Ethics class.

There are beginning to be some follow up stories as well.

It seems that a couple scammed the media and the public by claiming to have given birth to sextuplet babies in order to get donations. It appears to me that these people have some serious mental problems as well, but that is not the issue here.

The AP journalist acted in good faith to the story’s subjects, the media, and the public by reporting the story, but he was scammed as well. Verification of the story was his problem. In these days of privacy rights it is difficult to just call up the hospital and get information, but still, six babies is quite a litter and you would think that there would be some public knowledge about it.

Note that the editor of The Examiner, the newspaper that originated the story is considering a "front-page column to readers to address the issue." There will be "a review of his reporter’s verification practices."


Nancy Williams said...

That truly is an amazing story -- trying to fake not only being pregnant, but pregnant with sextuplets??

I'll be interested if you track this, Smokey, and can link us to the front-page statement the editor said he would make.

smokey said...

Here is a bit of a summary of what the editor has said. I could not find a specific article by him.

From the April 12 issue:
Examiner Editor Dale Brendel said he was considering a front-page column to readers addressing the issue. He said the incident would force a review of his reporters' verification practices.
"I think that we fell victim to the hoax. There were people out in the community who were doing fund-raisers already, and we feel bad for them and for us that we were the victims of that," Brendel said. "In retrospect, there were things we could have done better from a newspaper standpoint, in terms of our investigations and trying to flesh out some of the red flags there were about the story."

From the April 15 issue:
In a front-page column published Friday, The Examiner's executive editor, Dale Brendel, apologized to readers, saying the paper held the story for three weeks before eventually being convinced it was true.
"We got fooled. Plain and simple," Brendel wrote. "In a story as sensational as this, we shouldn't have published anything until we verified it with our own cameras."

I have an additional story about more Muslim cartoons that I think I will justify starting a new blog. See you there.

bekah said...

Wow, I would definitely call this bad reporting. There was absolutely no proof that the woman had sextuplets, yet the story was still published. I'm still a little in awe that there was NO PROOF!!

However, there was proof that Sarah Everson was a huge liar. The reporter could've done at least a little digging and found the sources of her employer and ex-husband and asked about her character. Had the reporter done this, a lot of grief would've been saved.

As clever as it was for the Eversons to use the media to get publicity and money, it was probably also the dumbest thing they did. This is what got them caught, although if anything, the media should've exploited their little plot in the first place, not supported it. I'm pretty sure this would've been a good time for a little muckraking.

One thing outside of media ethics that got to me was the dishonesty Sarah had even with her husband. The story said he actually thought she was pregnant at first. Personally, had I been him, the news of no pregnancy would've broken my heart. Having kids is not something to joke about, and I'm very surprised that he went along with his wife's dishonesty after he had been lied to. I would think that he would understand the pain of being lied to and wouldn't want to inflict it on others, especially those willing to donate to the cause.