May 17, 2005

Albom probe shows no pattern of deception.: A Free Press review of more than 600 columns by Mitch Albom has found no evidence of problems similar to an April 3 column in which Albom, with an editor's knowledge, misled readers by writing about events that never occurred at a basketball game. However, the inquiry found that Albom at times has used quotes from newspapers, TV programs or other publications without indicating that he did not gather the material himself, in violation of Free Press rules on crediting sources.

posted by the red terror to culture at 08:27 PM - 19 comments

Wow, even basic bloggers with a Jethro Bodine edumacation know to credit authority. He is now eligible to work for NewsWeek or the New York Times.

posted by mikemora at 11:35 PM on May 17

He is now eligible to work for NewsWeek or the New York Times. Don't forget the Boston Globe! Lifting quotes is a laziness thing. A lot of quotes in sports are obtained in a post-game context, with a dozen (or more) reporters with recorders jostling each other while a coach or athlete speaks. The effect is a dozen identical quotes, independently obtained, sort of. A lazy reporter might think it's perfectly fine to lift "So-and-so said after the game" quotes from another publication on the assumption that this is how they were obtained...and, eventually, be embarrassed by the revelation that they didn't come from a hallway press conference but from a one-on-one conversation. The reasons not to do it are obvious, but I can see where a lazy person would get into the habit of doing so, and do so undetectably for a long time, before getting caught.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:17 AM on May 18

Albom also watched a game on television and wrote as if he was there, faked a St. Louis dateline, and changed quotes he lifted without attribution to make them livelier. The guy's a hack who should have the decency to resign. He knew a lot of the quotes were lifted, because he cribbed them off TV and radio. Even in this report, he's managed to sully the rep of the writers who had the thankless task of investigating him -- the lead and headline were rewritten by others to claim there's "no pattern of deception," when clearly there's a pattern of sloppy, unprofessional conduct. Perhaps he should have spent Tuesdays and Thursdays with Morrie.

posted by rcade at 07:35 AM on May 18

It is a laziness issue, and it does simplify your job as a journalist to just yank stuff from someone else's work, especially if you were over stuffing your face with free ballpark goodies and the postgame interview started without you. However, the risk you run is pulling a quote that later comes out to be inaccurate, or just flat not true. It's pretty damned simple to just write, "According to the Dry Prong Diddler ...", but I bet 50-75% of the writers out there don't do it. I've never seen anyone called on it, but I have fired a reporter for lifting a schedule of events directly from another newspaper and not checking it out. It turned out the entire schedule had been revised, and had he just made a phone call, he would have gotten the right information. Dry Prong is an actual town in Louisiana. I don't think I'll be visiting any time soon.

posted by wfrazerjr at 07:36 AM on May 18

My wife covered the Super Bowl in Jacksonville as a business reporter, and she attended several of the press events such as media day. As someone with no background in sports -- she called me once to say she was "standing next to Donovan McSomething" -- she was awestruck by how much the sportswriters were coddled. Every press conference ended with all of the quotes being handed out to the reporters by the league. The picture she painted was of the most work-averse group of reporters she'd ever met.

posted by rcade at 07:48 AM on May 18

Every press conference ended with all of the quotes being handed out to the reporters by the league. I don't know if that is 'coddled' so much as spoon-fed party talking points. That does not describe reporting, but rather a link on the distribution chain. But I guess you do want to coddle your channel intermediaries, so perhaps you are right after all.

posted by smithers at 07:55 AM on May 18

Mitch Albom: reverse-gonzo journalism.

posted by chris2sy at 08:59 AM on May 18

Albom's gotten just a little too big lately, and now it's come back to bite him. He's obviously a good writer, but just think about all the things he has going, from writing columns, putting out books, movie deals on books, television shows. It only stands to reason he wouldn't have time (in his mind) to take care of all these things appropriately without cutting corners. With modern technology, he can sit in front of any computer terminal and pull up transcipts, quotes, articles, etc. from all over the world. As someone who worked for a daily newspaper for several years, it's amazing how so many people take what they read in practically any newspaper as the absolute gospel truth. Most would never think to wonder or question about a writer's sources and if they actually spoke directly to them (or if they're accurate). I imagine it goes on far more than we'll ever know. I guess I'm saying you just have to keep this in the back of your mind the next time you hear an athlete (for example) going off on a reporter. It may very likely be justified.

posted by dyams at 10:31 AM on May 18

Every press conference ended with all of the quotes being handed out to the reporters by the league. The picture she painted was of the most work-averse group of reporters she'd ever met. Oh, I don't know. Did your wife report that no one in the audience was actually taking or recording their OWN notes? I think the danger here is the PR department deleting or making nice out of an unfavorable quote and the reporter having no way to check it.

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:33 AM on May 18

Albom earlier: "My only sin is being too productive, and working too damn hard. Living on the edge, you know? " Maybe Mitch should set aside the book signings and ESPN appearances and concentrate on his primary full-time gig, maybe he should start behaving like a professional. Guys who complain about having it all make themselves laughingstocks.

posted by the red terror at 10:45 AM on May 18

Albom really plays the martyr card beautifully in that April 30 column. I will cry myself to sleep tonight thinking of how we've all done him wrong.

posted by rcade at 11:45 AM on May 18

I just read that entire report. If the Free Press works half as exhaustively looking at City Hall and other local issues, there must be absolutely no corruption in Detroit.

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:07 PM on May 18

You read the actual report? Where is it?

posted by rcade at 02:51 PM on May 18

Morrie called, he's not really dead yet, Albom just said he was to make the story a little more, "lively." I remember reading Tuesday's w/ Morrie, Albom went on about how Morrie had caused him to reflect on his over-worked, money hungry ways and to think about the important things in life. Looks like he forgot that lesson.

posted by mayerkyl at 05:18 PM on May 18

The ACC BasketBlog has a slightly different take on this matter. From the Detroit News: "Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom lifted quotes from other publications without attribution and in some stories quotes appeared to be slightly changed from how they appeared elsewhere, according to a Free Press investigation of their embattled star writer." (via MGoBlog) rcade, Here's the link to the Detroit Free Press article.

posted by ZDYOLDMAN at 05:26 PM on May 18

Two weeks ago, Tom Squitieri, a 16-year veteran at USA Today (and regular on Hardball with Chris Matthews), resigned after being found guilty of lifting quotes without attribution from The Indianapolis Star.

posted by the red terror at 05:35 PM on May 18

trt, But he wasn't a best-selling author. This is about fame. And just so we're clear: My earlier post should all be attributed to MGoBlog. It wasn't entirely clear, I think, above.

posted by ZDYOLDMAN at 06:10 PM on May 18

This is about fame. I thought it was about Albom making stuff up, reporting things he never saw, and taking other reporters quotes and attributing them as his own. We either read different stories, or drew completely different conclusions.

posted by the red terror at 10:21 AM on May 20

trt, We're reading the same story. Both Squiterri and Albom acted inappropriately. Both did things that deserve firing. But Albom is being protected by the Freep because he's famous. USAT let Squiterri go because he was really just a nobody. (Appearances on Hardball don't exactly count toward fame because nobody watches MSNBC.) I was saying that the different reactions of the employers was because of the fame, or lack of fame, of the employee. It seems to me that Albom should be fired but I think they're not going to because he's famous. The things you listed are the things the employers ought to consider. What I meant was that they are considering more than that.

posted by ZDYOLDMAN at 01:33 PM on May 20

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