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March 8, 2004 9:27 AM   Subscribe

"These people always complain," said Graham Thorn, a psychiatrist, in a Chicago Tribune article about racial tensions in Australia. "They want it both ways--their way and our way. They want to live in our society and be respected, yet they won't work. They steal, they rob and they get drunk. And they don't respect the laws." The problem isn't that Graham Thorn didn't say that; as blogger Tim Blair uncovered, the problem is that Graham Thorn never existed. [more inside]
posted by soyjoy (10 comments total)

 
The writer, Uli Schmetzer, admits that he made up the source's name and profession but claims the quote came from a real person. Now the Chicago Tribune has begun examining decades' worth of stories Schmetzer wrote for the Tribune as an employee (he was a freelancer on this one). Although his career at the paper was never ethically perfect (see 1994 complaint), Schmetzer may not be helping things by claiming in a long letter to Romenesko (no permalink; you may need to scroll) that his judgment supercedes ethical codes: "Take the case of the person who gives you that elusive 'perfect quote.' You have assured the guy you are not going to quote him. But what he says absolutely reflects reality and is in the interests of your reading public. What do you do? Do you forget the quote? Do you tag it onto an anonymous source (an option that means it won't see print these days)? Or do you break your code of ethics and change the name?" In the letter, Schmetzer goes on to imply that this isn't the first time he's had to break the rules in order to get the job done.
posted by soyjoy at 9:28 AM on March 8, 2004


Interesting. My initial reaction was "he shouldn't have done that" but I gotta admit he makes a good point when he's talking about China in 1989. The problem of course is where the line is drawn and who draws it.
posted by dobbs at 9:55 AM on March 8, 2004


"...Do you tag it onto an anonymous source (an option that means it won't see print these days)? Or do you break your code of ethics and change the name?"

I think he's being a bit disingenuous here. The days of anonymous sources are far from over. Sure, it's more compelling when there's a name, but if the quote is that good, and the danger to the source is real, few editors would turn remove it.

Good for the Trib for jumping on this. Looks like the NYT's scandal last year actually sunk in.
posted by me3dia at 10:07 AM on March 8, 2004


...the problem is that Graham Thorn never existed

As Voltaire said about god: if he doesn’t exist, then we need to invent him.
posted by Termite at 10:36 AM on March 8, 2004


Congrats to Tim Blair. People like him do a great service to journalism. And congrats to that idiot who wrote "Thanks for the tin-foil hat alert" in the comments. People like him undo the good done by people like Blair.
posted by Ljubljana at 10:58 AM on March 8, 2004


People like him undo the good done by people like Blair.

Nonsense.


Good post soyjoy, I was unaware of this until your post.

Thank you.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2004


Nonsense.

Just because the doofus-in-question posted from an Ann Coulter page doesn't mean you are obliged to defend him, ya know. Sometimes a tighty-righty can be wrong.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:57 AM on March 8, 2004


Oh christ I doubt it has anything to do with political affiliation. Neither was the person being defended. S@L was simply opining that random people on the net posting anti-witticisms do very little harm to honest, well-supported investigations such as Blair's.
posted by kavasa at 12:00 PM on March 8, 2004


BTW: With another reader writing in (and making a pretty good point) about the Uli Schmetzer letter referenced above, Romenesko's added a linkable anchor. So in case a bunch of other letters come in, you can jump to it here. (Alternate link for "a long letter to Romenesko.")
posted by soyjoy at 12:21 PM on March 8, 2004


The quote is so typical, what matters anyway who said it? The point is it just reflects a typical attitude.
posted by Goofyy at 9:09 AM on March 9, 2004


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