Intern fabrication at news organizations

By Alex Veeneman on July 10, 2012

The Wall Street Journal’s Money and Investing section. The Journal was one of the papers that had interns fabricating stories.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user cafemama)

Two major news organizations have recently disclosed fabrications by their interns.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal announced that one of their interns, Liane Membis, a recent graduate of Yale University, had fabricated quotes in published stories. The quotes Membis wrote were not able to be verified by her editors at the Journal, according to a report from the Poynter Institute, and were since removed or modified.

In a statement, a Journal spokesperson confirmed Membis was no longer an intern at the paper. “Liane Membis was an intern for the Journal for less than three weeks and wrote or contributed to five published pieces, one of which has been removed from our online archives and two of which have been edited to remove quotes that were provided by the intern and that cannot be confirmed,” the statement read. “Notes detailing the actions taken have been placed at the original URLs. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal.” A Journal spokesperson declined to provide further comment.

NPR disclosed July 10 that one of their interns, Ahmad Shafi, had fabricated items when working on a story of his experience watching a public execution in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. Late on July 9, NPR unpublished the story, according to Poynter. In a telephone interview with Uloop, Anna Christopher, the network’s Director of Media Relations, said Shafi is continuing to intern at NPR, but his work is being reviewed. “We are reviewing the work he has done,” Christopher said. “In the meantime, he is not writing for radio or for online pending this review.”

Christopher added that Shafi had previously worked at NPR’s Kabul bureau and had been interning for four weeks. “He is a talented producer who has done a lot of great work,” Christopher said, noting that interns comply with the code of ethics that its staff journalists’ share. Chrstopher added that a thorough review of NPR’s ethics was recently completed and was released earlier this year.

The piece also was published on some of the web sites of NPR’s member stations. “We have alerted them of the fact that we’ve pulled the piece,” Christopher said.

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