Wall St. Journal Intern Out After Fabrication Charges
June 28, 2012
Liane Membis discusses her plans as Miss Black America – Connecticut with WTNH-TV in New Haven in November. (Video)
An intern at the Wall Street Journal who is Miss Black America – Connecticut, graduated from Yale University and said she wanted to “represent African American women in a positive light,” is no longer at the Journal after the newspaper said she fabricated sources and quotes just three weeks into the10-week internship, according to news reports Tuesday.
“The paper wrote that it had removed an article by the intern, Liane Membis, that was published on June 17 because ‘many of the names contained in the article about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan were fabricated’ and ‘the quotes couldn’t be independently verified.’ The note concluded: ‘Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal,’ Christine Haughney reported for the New York Times.
Although “Bridging a Local Divide” was pulled from the Journal website, Talking Biz News said it had been provided a copy by a Journal staffer.
The piece includes quotes from East Harlem residents such as:
” ‘Sometimes I just come up on this bridge and stop and look around, right up here on the top,’ said Katrina Maple, 64 years old. ‘It’s calming and relaxing. It feels like we finally got our backyard back.’
On the Washington Post website, Erik Wemple reprinted the quote and asked, “Do people talk like that?“
The Wall Street Journal statement said:
“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. Notes detailing the actions taken have been placed at the original URLs. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal,” according to Andrew Beaujon of the Poynter Institute.
“The two other pieces with editor’s notes are ‘Space Shuttle Floats Into Its Manhattan Home’ by Membis, published June 6, and ‘Stop, Frisk in Spotlight’ by Pervaiz Shallwani, published June 10.”
Haughney added in the Times:
“Ms. Membis’s experience at The Journal could create problems for other publications. A graduate of Yale University, she contributed more than three dozen articles to the Yale Daily News. The paper’s editor, Max de [La] Bruyère, said, ‘We are in the process of reviewing the stories she wrote for the paper as best we can.’
“Ms. Membis also wrote for CNN and Ebony and had an article picked up by The Huffington Post.”
Among the pieces she wrote for the Yale Daily News was “Pour some sugar daddy on me,” a short essay in 2009 about enjoying lunches with a married man.
Membis’ LinkedIn profile lists her as “Wordsmith/Visionary Entrepreneur” and editor/publisher at Liberette Magazine, “an online magazine for women of color who are open-minded and intrigued by thought-provoking reads in a progressive environment.”
At Yale, where Membis studied from 2008 to this year, she listed her activities and societies as “Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Yale African Students Association, Black [Women's] Coalition, Dwight Hall at Yale.”
In an interview in November with WTNH in New Haven, Conn., after she won the Miss Black America – Connecticut contest, Membis said she wanted to “represent African American women in a positive light” and that her platform in the national contest would be “improving literacy in the African American community,” asserting that “40 percent of our fourth graders are illiterate in the United States.”
- Max de La Bruyère, Yale Daily News: For Our Readers: Regarding Liane Membis ’12
- Peter Jacobs, ivygateblog.com: Former Yale Daily News Writer Fired From Wall Street Journal Internship For Making Up Sources
- Julia La Roche, businessinsider.com: This Wall Street Journal Intern Was Fired For Fabricating Sources
“The reporter suspended from Politico for comments about Mitt Romney said on Wednesday that he had been the target of a deliberate right-wing smear campaign,” Jack Mirkinson reported for the Huffington Post.
“Speaking to radio and Current TV host Bill Press, Joe Williams, who was punished for saying on MSNBC that Mitt Romney is more comfortable around ‘white folks,’ said that there had been a ‘selective prosecution’ against him by conservative websites like The Daily Caller and the late Andrew Breitbart‘s Big Media.
“Williams told Press that he is still ‘in limbo’ with Politico, and is in negotiations about his future there.
“Speaking about the comments that got him suspended, Williams said that he ‘probably should have selected my words more carefully.’ But he defended the broader point he had been making, and said that he thought people had understood what he meant. Asked by Press if he should apologize to Mitt Romney for saying he felt more at home with white people, Williams said, ‘If I apologize for that there are going to be many other people who will have to as well.’
“. . . Press also asked Williams, who is African American, about a comment he made on Twitter saying that racism is ‘the secret sauce in the Politico s–tburger.’ Williams said that the tweet, which he made weeks before his Romney comments, had been mistakenly posted to his public feed, rather than in a direct message.
” ‘Twitter is a medium that rewards … lack of thought,’ he said. ‘I was in a very irritated place. I vented in a public place and that was a huge mistake.’ He later said, though, that Politico has ‘a lot of questions’ to deal with in terms of its staff diversity.”
Betsy Rothstein of FishbowlDC reported that Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, called Williams a nut.
Writing Wednesday about responses to Williams’ remarks from editors at Breitbart.com and the Daily Caller, Rothstein said that Carlson, “who has sparred with reporters at Politico for years and repeatedly tied Politico to MSNBC to brand the publication as left wing, remarked, ‘Supposedly objective White House correspondent accuses GOP candidate of racism on the basic of no evidence? Seemed like a pretty obvious story to us,’ he wrote by email. ‘By the way, Williams made those comments in public, on Twitter, so I’d hate to think it took our piece to get his bosses to notice he’s a nut, though that’s what he claims.’ “
“While people typically delineate their personal and professional digital lives, there is little distinction between the two — at least as far as social media is concerned — for the news staffs at the 10 NBC-owned stations,” Diana Marszalek reported Tuesday for mediaite.com.
“For the last year or so, the NBC Owned Television Stations have required individuals who work in their newsrooms — from interns and production assistants to reporters and anchors — to follow the company rules governing social media use, regardless of whether they are using the platform to promote news or their personal lives.
“That means news staff is prohibited from tweeting, posting or distributing via other social networking means ‘anything that compromises the integrity and objectivity of you or NBCUniversal,’ even using a personal account, says Kevin Keeshan, ombudsman for the station group.
” ‘We ask them to think and use common sense,’ he says. ‘Don’t post anything we’re not prepared to broadcast.’ “
- Tommy Christopher, mediaite.com: Joe Williams’ 1st Interview Since Politico Suspension: ‘I Gave (Breitbart.com) The Rope, They Did The Hanging’
- Betsy Rothstein, FishbowlDC: Did Politico’s Joe Williams Just Bury Himself?
“The story sounds hideously like another — one of a chaotic, predatory attack on a woman journalist in Cairo’s Tahrir Square,” Lauren Wolfe wrote Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Clothes torn from her body, hundreds of men surging to grab her breasts and claw at her. A woman wondering, ‘Maybe this is how I go, how I die.’ It has been almost a year and a half since CBS correspondent and CPJ board member Lara Logan endured an attack like this. Now, an independent journalist and student named Natasha Smith reports that it has happened to her.
“Smith reported the attack on her blog today, describing how a horde of men descended on her Sunday night, pulling her limbs and throwing her around as she tried to protect her camera. She said she soon lost her camera, her backpack, and began to pray: ‘make it stop.’
” ‘They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way,’ Smith wrote. ‘So many men. All I could see was leering faces, more and more faces sneering and jeering as I was tossed around like fresh meat among starving lions.’
“In Cairo to film an independent documentary on women’s rights and abuses against women in Egypt since the revolution, according to her website, Smith shared an account of her attack that is eerily parallel to Logan’s. . . “
Retired Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, right, receives a tribute from the Post newsroom Tuesday at a roast and benefit for his BabySteps foundation, which nurtures parents and preschoolers in Raspberry’s hometown of Okolona, Miss. With Raspberry are his wife, Sondra, center, and son, Mark.
More than 200 journalists and other community people went to the Washington Post building for the tribute, which raised more than $35,000, according to Walt Swanston, veteran journalist, diversity consultant and one of the organizers. Attendees paid $100 if they were members of a journalism organization; $250 if not. Many who could not attend contributed nonetheless.
Raspberry, 76, a 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner, is suffering from recurring prostate cancer, Sondra Raspberry said. Juan Williams, Fox News commentator and master of ceremonies for the event, said of the occasion, “It’s like a reunion of people who love Bill and love the Washington Post.” Local columnist Courtland Milloy Jr. filed a column from Okolona about the Baby Steps program that appeared in Wednesday’s print edition. Donald Graham, Washington Post Co. CEO, was honorary co-chair of the event.
The Kansas City Star’s stylebook says to be “especially cautious about identifying criminal suspects by race or ethnicity when the overall description of the person is vague,” public editor Derek Donovan wrote on Sunday.
“It clarifies that skin color should be included when the description also includes height, weight, hair color, approximate age and one other distinguishing element such as a noticeable physical attribute (but not eye color — a strange rule, in my opinion), clothing or a vehicle.
“It allows for two exceptions:
- “When the person has one particularly distinctive physical characteristic, fewer details are acceptable, but race should be included: ‘an Asian man about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a wooden left leg.’
- “Stories about serial or most-wanted criminals may give much less detail because ‘a reader will want even superficial information to help him or her decide how to respond to potential threats.’
“Vague descriptions such as ‘a black man in his mid-20s’ describe thousands of people in the Kansas City area. I hope that people who don’t belong to a minority will appreciate that pointing out unhelpful aspects of one’s appearance are as offensive as noting the person’s religion, political views or alma mater.
“I understand the reasoning behind The Star’s guidelines,” Donovan wrote, pointing out that the Star doesn’t always follow its guidelines, “but I also think readers who find them too restrictive have a point as well. Some descriptions can still be useful with fewer than six attributes.”
Yvette Walker, night news director at the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Media Ethics at the University of Central Oklahoma, is filing reports for Journal-isms on the International Press Institute’s World Congress that began Sunday in Trinidad.
By Yvette Walker
On Tuesday, I appeared on a panel at the IPI World Congress: “Online Media and Ethics in a Changing Media Landscape.” Fascinating stuff. I discussed the Trayvon Martin case as it related to how the information circulated via online media and social media. Kwame Laurence, online editor (now focusing more on sports) at the Trinidad Express, discussed comments and moderating commenters.
My points were that the original print story by the Orlando Sentinel was too small to attract the attention the story later received, and that the incident didn’t become national and international news until bloggers chimed in, a change.org petition to charge George Zimmerman garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures (now millions) and the iconic hoodie photo was widely shared on social media.
The session flew by and there were great questions and comments, especially from Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, who had just come from the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. Charles pointed out that the Martin family mentioned the varying photos of Trayvon that circulated and said they did not intend to manipulate his public persona.
["Trayvon had a baby face," his mother, Sabrina Martin, said at the convention of charges that the family was releasing photos that made her son look younger. "The most recent photos we had were the horseback riding and the Hollister shirt. We're not trying to hide anything. He was a teenager. He was our son." The Rev. Al Sharpton, who appeared with the family at the Thursday session, told the NABJ audience, "Families never plan to be victims." Many journalists forget that victims and their families did not expect to be public figures but treat them as though they did and are, Sharpton said.]
There is much we could have talked about. I did not get a chance to say that there were great examples of analysis, including columns by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times, and from Kelly McBride, senior faculty, ethics, reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute, among others.
Final sessions of the day included “Moving from the Newsroom to the State House (and Back Again)” and “Covering the Environment.”
The three-day Congress ended Tuesday night with a closing ceremony at the Diplomatic Center in Port of Spain. I left this beautiful island Wednesday, with thanks to the International Press Institute and to the talented journalists from around the world I was fortunate to meet.
- Steven M. Ellis, International Press Institute: Free Expression Rapporteurs Issue Joint Declaration
- Steven M. Ellis, International Press Institute: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Promises to Initiate Review of Nation’s Defamation Laws (access from home page)
- Kejan Haynes, Trinidad Express: ‘State-owned media means misinformation’
- Naomi Hunt, International Press Institute: Ka-Ching!: Avoiding Manipulation through Government Advertising
- Trinidad Express: Tears for slain journalists
- “The Africa Channel recently announced that it would enter a stock car in NASCAR’s 2013 racing series, and Randy Fenley, a partner in the endeavor, said the announcement signals that the cable television channel is launching a driver-and racing crew-development training program for African Americans to enter the popular sport,” Frederick H. Lowe reported Wednesday for NorthStar News & Analysis. Lowe received the Ray Taliaferro NABJ Spirit Award for entrepreneurship last week during the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans.
- “Bill Dedman of MSNBC.com writes that Bloomberg Television has pulled an advertisement for anchor Betty Liu because it says she was a nominated for a Pulitzer when the Pulitzer committee does not list her as a nominee for any year,” Talking Biz News reported Tuesday. “It turns out that Liu is another example of a Pulitzer entrant — not a finalist or nominee — who routinely lists the word ‘Pulitzer’ in her bio anyway.”
- “ESPN THE MAGAZINE’S The Body Issue, its fourth annual celebration of the athletic form, will feature 27 world-class athletes, including New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski, Toronto Blue Jays’ slugger Jose Bautista, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team forward Abby Wambach and New York Knicks’ center Tyson Chandler,” ESPN reported on Wednesday, listing the 27. “. . . All 27 athletes posed nude for the issue’s signature Bodies We Want photo portfolio.”
- If the Unity Journalists coalition truly wants the National Association of Black Journalists “to be part of the alliance, it will have to be much more proactive moving forward,” Mallary Jean Tenore wrote Wednesday for the Poynter Institute after examining the estrangement between the two groups. “NABJ has made its decision, it’s now up to Unity to respond.”
- JCamp, the six-day, multicultural high-school journalism training camp sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association, has compiled its participants’ work online. The students spent June 19-24 based at Loyola University in New Orleans, joining the National Association of Black Journalists convention, which was meeting in New Orleans. Adele Taylor covered an NABJ panel on the Trayvon Martin case.
- “Any freelancer worth his or her salt will tell you that earning an editor’s trust is half the battle,” Donya Blaze wrote last week for FishbowlLA in mediabistro’s series on how to pitch stories. “So, the best way to get your hands on a meaty feature could be to start off small with an FOB [front of the book] piece here, or in the case of Ebony.com, a sticky, tweetable Web story there. ‘We want everything,’ said editorial director Keirna Mayo. ‘We want great ideas. We want people to be thinking about black lifestyle in a very nuanced way. We’re looking for the unique take, the unique angle, and the strong writer.’ ”
- Zachary Rinkins and the African-American Public Radio Consortium are producing “It’s Pay Day,” 90-second modules from experts about managing money. The series launches June 29 with a new segment weekly. Contributors include Julianne Malveaux , Mellody Hobson and television judge Lynn Toler .
- On June 27, Earvin “Magic” Johnson‘s Aspire cable channel “will begin airing in markets served by cable giant Comcast, which gave spectrum to four minority-owned channels to win federal approval of its 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal,” Ronald Grover reported Tuesday for Reuters. “He says he’s chasing the successful career of Robert Johnson, the legendary founder of Black Entertainment Television and one-time owner of the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Bobcats.”
- “CNN’s Tokyo-based correspondent Kyung Lah is moving to CNN’s Los Angeles bureau to join correspondents Miguel Marquez, Thelma Guiterrez and Casey Wian,” Chris Ariens reported Tuesday for TVNewser.
- Marcus Mabry, editor at large at the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times, discussed his essay “The Gift of Being Gay and a Dad” June 17 in the Times, and again Tuesday on NPR’s “Tell Me More.”
- “The New York Times is introducing a Chinese-language Web site, part of a continuing effort to expand its reach to international readers,” Christine Haughney reported Wednesday for the Times. “The site, which is called cn.nytimes.com and will go live Thursday morning, is intended to draw readers from the country’s growing middle class, what The Times in its news release called ‘educated, affluent, global citizens.’ ”
- “Sudan security forces have arrested scores of protesters, opposition members, and journalists, beat people in detention, and used rubber bullets and even live ammunition to break up protests that began on June 16,” Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. “. . .On June 19, plain-clothes security agents arrested the Agence France-Press correspondent, Simon Martelli, and detained him for 14 hours in an office in northern Khartoum. Security officials arrested Salma al-Wardany, an Egyptian journalist for Bloomberg, and a Sudanese colleague on June 21, releasing them after five hours. On June 26, authorities ordered al-Wardany deported, alleging that she had links to activists.”
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