The Miami Student, the student newspaper for Ohio’s Miami University, unpublished and retracted a story that included a fake quote attributed to the school’s hockey team member Jay Williams.
Sources for the story also didn’t know their comments would be published. They had been interviewed by the writer for a school assignment, not for publication. The writer, who was unnamed by the Miami Student, was supposed to tell her sources that the paper would publish her story but didn’t.
The story was titled “The Baron of Brick Street” and profiled the co-owner of a local bar, Brick Street’s Will Weisman.
The Miami Student’s incoming editor-in-chief Reis Thebault told iMediaEthics by e-mail that “the writer had never contributed” to the paper before.
“She initially wrote the story for one of her journalism classes,” Thebault told iMediaEthics. “It is a common practice, though, for professors to encourage students with good stories to submit them for publication.”
Even though it has been “common practice,” Thebault told iMediaEthics by e-mail that “We have since reconsidered our policy on using class-produced work and we now follow up with the sources ourselves.” Before this incident, the newspaper relied on contributing writers to secure the permission from sources. In this case, the paper had been “assured multiple times” by the writer that she had gotten permission when she hadn’t.
The Miami Student learned that sources were upset about the story’s publication when they contact the paper. “We found out from sources or representatives of sources that those interviewed were not aware the story and their comments would be published,” Thebault said.” “They knew only that the author was working on a class assignment.”
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The Miami Student retraction, published in print and online, read in part:
“The Student has occasionally published articles written for classes, but only if the writer has informed his or her sources that the story was to be published, and if the sources have agreed to be quoted for publication.
“The editors were led to believe the writer of ‘The Baron of Brick Street’ had followed these steps with her sources. After the story was published, we learned the writer did not do so. Therefore, we cannot stand by any part of the story.”
The paper’s editor-in-chief Reis Thebault added, “We have removed the story from our website. We apologize to those quoted in the story, including Will Weisman and Jay Williams, and we apologize to our readers for publishing a story that fails to meet our standards.”
Earlier this year, the Miami Student fired community editor Sammie Miller after discovering plagiarism in seven of her articles.
iMediaEthics has reached out to Williams via Twitter.