Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Culture: All the news that's fit to fake

Michelle Malkin is all over New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff for fakery.

Looks like the New York Times has another ugly Jayson Blair-like scandal on its hands. This time, the young minority reporter is Charlie LeDuff, a part Native-American, part-Cajun writer, known as a rising star and favorite pet of former executive editor Howell Raines.

The hotshot LeDuff is now in hot water over his cribbing of anecdotes from someone else's book about kayaking down the Los Angeles River for his own Page One fluff story about — you guessed it! — kayaking down the Los Angeles River. An embarrassing correction published in the New York Times on Dec. 8 explained:

An article last Monday about the Los Angeles River recounted its history and described the reporter's trip downriver in a kayak. In research for the article, the reporter consulted a 1999 book by Blake Gumprecht, "The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth." Several passages relating facts and lore about the river distilled passages from the book. Although the facts in those passages were confirmed independently-through other sources or the reporter's first hand observation-the article should have acknowledged the significant contribution of Mr. Gumprecht's research.
Gumprecht, an assistant professor of geography at the University of New Hampshire and a former newspaper reporter, told Slate's Jack Shafer he was "fairly shocked" by the similarities between his book and the Times's story, and that LeDuff's borrowing went beyond accepted journalistic practices.

Perhaps not coincidentally, LeDuff was a good pal of the disgraced Jayson Blair.
Malkin says this is not the first time LeDuff has been accused of lying.

In September, author and columnist Marvin Olasky reported that LeDuff attributed fake quotes to a naval officer in San Diego to fit the reporter's antiwar agenda.

Lieutenant Commander Beidler, 32, on his way to Iraq in January, was walking with his family toward the end of Naval Station Pier 2 when the Times's Charlie LeDuff asked him for his general view of war protesters. Mr. Beidler recalls stating, "Protesters have a right to protest, and our job is to defend those rights. But in protesting, they shouldn't protest blindly; instead, they should provide reasonable solutions to the problem." The LeDuff version had Mr. Beidler criticizing Los Angeles protesters but turning his guns at a complacent United States: "It's war, Commander Beidler said, and the nation is fat. 'No one is screaming for battery-powered cars,' he added." The journalist then turned to Commander Beidler wife's Christal: "'I'm just numb,' she said as she patted down his collar. 'I'll cry myself to sleep, I'm sure.'"

Mr. Beidler was at sea when he discovered how far at sea the Times's reporting was, but he sent off a letter to the editor stating what he had said and arguing that the quotes about national fatness and battery-powered cars "were completely fabricated by Mr. LeDuff in order to connect our nation's dependence on oil with the current military buildup in the Middle East."

Mr. Beidler also stated, "Mr. LeDuff continued his shameful behavior by attributing words and actions to my wife that were not her own. Not only did she not say she would cry herself to sleep, but she didn't pat down my collar either, which was impossible for her to accomplish with my civilian shirt hidden under my jacket and a duffle bag hanging on my shoulder closest to her."

In response, a Times editor shrugged off Beidler's complaint. LeDuff, he informed Beidler, "thinks that he accurately represented his interview with you and your wife, and therefore so do I. If you have another encounter some day with The New York Times, I hope its outcome is more satisfactory to you."
Hmmm. Which am I going to trust: the integrity of a US naval officer, or the integrity of a guy who writes about fake kayak trips?

Jayson Blair fakes stories. Maureen Dowd drops context as if the use of it physically hurts her. Paul Krugman twists facts with more routine then any pretzel maker. And now Charlie LeDuff. The question I ask is why does anyone continue to take the New York Times seriously?

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