Journalism fraud includes practices such as plagiarism, fabrication of quotes, facts, or other report details, staging or altering the event being putatively recorded, or anything else that may call the integrity and truthfulness of a piece of journalism into question. As their reputations for accuracy and truthfulness are arguably the most important assets of mass media outlets, many strictly enforce codes of journalistic ethics and carefully screen their reports for factual accuracy, publishing corrections even for minor errors soon after a story appears. When a case of journalism fraud is discovered (especially at a prestigious media outlet), it is widely reported upon.

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1 Cases of Journalism Fraud

Cases of Journalism Fraud

Janet Cooke (1981)

Janet Cooke was a reporter for the Washington Post during the early 1980s. In 1981 her story, "Jimmy's World", about an 8 year old heroin addict, won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Shortly afterwards, Cooke confessed that "Jimmy" was in fact a composite of several child addicts, and returned her Pulitzer and resigned from the Post.

NBC Dateline (1992)

In a November 1992 segment on its Dateline news program called "Waiting to Explode", NBC showed a General Motors truck exploding after a low-speed side collision with another car. The explosion, though, was actually generated by hidden remote-controlled incendiary devices. GM sued and eventually won a settlement.

Stephen Glass (1998)

Stephen Glass was a reporter and associate editor for The New Republic magazine during the late 1990s. On May 8, 1998, Forbes Magazine presented The New Republic with evidence that Glass completely fabricated the story "Hack Heaven", a piece about a 15 year old computer hacker who breaks into a large company's computer system and is then offered a job by the company. After an internal investigation determined that 27 of 41 articles he had written for the magazine contained fabricated material, Glass was fired.

Patricia Smith (1998)

Shortly after the Glass affair, award-winning reporter Patricia Smith resigned from the Boston Globe. Smith, who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist that year, admitted to fabricating quotations.

Mike Barnicle (1998)

Mike Barnicle was a long-time journalist for the Boston Globe who was removed from his position at about the same time as colleague Patricia Smith. Though the reason for Barnicle's removal was plagiarism (specifically, reproducing unattributed passages from comedian George Carlin's book, Brain Droppings), Barnicle had been accused of more serious journalism fraud before, as when he fabricated a quotation in a story about Boston's 1970s school busing controversy.

Rigoberta Menchú (1999)

In 1983, Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchú published an account of her country's bloody civil war called I, Rigoberta Menchú. In 1992, largely on account of this book, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Several years later anthropologist David Stoll conducted a series of interviews with Menchú's former acquaintances for a follow-up book. During this time he discovered that her account was largely fabricated. Specifically, Menchú was not self-taught (she received a middle-school education) and the land dispute in which her father was killed was with family members, not the government. No steps have been taken by the Nobel Committee to revoke Menchú's award, though.

CNN (2003)

In the April 11, 2003 edition of the New York Times, CNN chief news executive, Eason Jordan, wrote that CNN had suppressed information about atrocities committed by the Saddam Hussein regime against its own people in order to protect CNN staff stationed in Baghdad.

Al-Jazeera (2003)

On May 11, 2003, the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, published a report that 3 Iraqi agents had infiltrated the Al Jazeera sattelite network in an effort to subvert its coverage of the second Gulf War. Al Jazeera is currently investigating these claims.

Sky News: Reporter James Forlong (2003)

April of 2003 Rupert Murdoch's Sky News Network carried a report from James Forlong aboard the British nuclear submarine HMS Splendid purportedly showing a live firing of a cruise missile, at sea in the Persian Gulf, during the Iraq war. The report included scenes of the crew members giving instructions related to the launch of the missile and included a sequence in which a crew member pressed a large red button marked with the word "FIRE" and accompanied by a sequence a missile breaking the surface of the water and launching into the air. The report was a fabrication, with the crew acting along for the benefit of the cameras. The Sky News team did not accompany the submarine when it left port and the scenes were actually recorded whilst the vessel was docked. The shot of the missile breaking the surface has been obtained from stock footage. The faked report was revealed because a BBC film crew did accompany the vessel to sea. The BBC crew filmed a real cruise missile launch for the BBC TV series Fighting the War. The BBC footage showed how, with modern computerised launching systems, a missile is not launched by pressing a red button but is actually launched with a left mouse click. The BBC passed the information onto The Guardian newspaper who broke the story on July 18, 2003. James Forlong was suspended from Sky News pending an investigation [1]. In October of 2003, James Forlong was found dead by his wife, after an apparent suicide. [1]

Jayson Blair (2003)

In early May 2003, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair resigned after being confronted with evidence of fabricating quotes and details in at least 36 articles. On June 5, 2003, Times executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd resigned as a result of this scandal.