Columbia Journalism Review Reporter Lying, Exploiting a Source? What's happening at CJR?

iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


Home » Apologies & Retractions»

Sensational Newsweek cover story, Oct.30,1967, included an article by then 28-year-old journalist, Bruce Porter,"Gentle Marcy, A Shattering Tale" about a hippie girl gone wrong. Porter promised to not identify her but used her name and hometown in the story anyway. (Marcy not depicted in the cover image).

Bruce Porter, a retired Columbia University journalism professor and the author of the book-turned-movie Blow, decided in 2011 that he would find Marcy, the then-teen source he betrayed in an Oct. 30,1967 Newsweek cover story called “Trouble in Hippieland.

Just 28 when he wrote “Gentle Marcy, A Shattering Tale,” Porter expressed regret in a feature published last month by the Columbia Journalism Review that after promising Marcy anonymity, he revealed the “17 year old” runaway’s first name and hometown (Flint, Mich.) in a sensational “hippie chick life gone wrong” profile. He cited her hard drug use, casual sex and a $200 abortion at a time when her mother thought Marcy was in New York working at Macy’s.

Soon after Porter’s Newsweek report, Marcy soulfully protested his betrayal in a Nov. 12/26, 1967 WNEW New York City radio station documentary. “They lied, Mother, they really lied” and “It isn’t like they said,” Marcy told her mom in a plaintive phone call. Marcy explained Newsweek offered her $65 to be interviewed. “I used a little bit [of the money] to get me some clothes and some shoes.” “Please, Mother, still love me when you read it, oh, Momma.”

Notice how the WNEW quote Porter used in CJR dodges a devastating charge against Porter — lying to his source.

Porter’s quote in CJR (note: words from the radio interview he cherry-picked are in yellow)

Momma, this is Marcy,” she said in a rush. “Momma, you know Newsweek, you haven’t seen it, have you? Don’t let Daddy read it.” She then broke into sobs and had difficulty getting words out. “Please, Momma, please still love me when you read it. Oh, Momma, I really love you. I thought you wouldn’t love me anymore.

The interview WNEW aired of the same passage was distinctly different. CJR‘s words are in yellow :

“Momma, this is Marcy. Yeah. Fine, mother, I have to talk to you about something. Listen, I needed – listen, you know in Newsweek, you haven’t read it have you? Don’t let daddy read it. Listen. Newsweek they said they wanted a story about a runaway so like I gave them, you know, I told them I was a runaway. And they said they wouldn’t use my name. They didn’t use my last name but they used my name. And they lied, mother, they really lied. Not about everything but they lied. Mother, I want you to know this, I really do. Mother, I know, I know when I first left daddy said stay away from drugs you know. I do take drugs. I’m not addicted, momma, it’s nothing. I just have, you know. Wait, listen to me. I want you to know because I’m sure you’ll read this, you know. Please, mother, still love me when you read it. Oh, momma, oh, momma, I really love you. I thought you wouldn’t love me anymore.” 

Marcy’s damning accusations against Porter and Newsweek are gutted. The charges of lying go unmentioned in CJR, considered among the world’s elite media industry journals.

Story Highlights

    • Marcy, his source, accused Bruce Porter of lying in Newsweek in 1967. He admits lying to a Michigan journalist about her in 2011. So why is Columbia Journalism Review not telling its readers?
    • Porter to Michigan reporter: “This is probably the worst thing I’ve done and I hope you forgive me.”
    • CJR editor Brent Cunningham to iMediaEthics: “[Lying] was probably not the best course of action, but it doesn’t have much bearing on our story. Our story was strictly about him going to find her and making a documentary about it. ”  
    • Marcy on Porter: “I told him that you’re not sorry if you keep doing it over and over.”
  • UPDATE: Oct 31, 2013, Porter, Columbia Journalism Review and Porter’s filmmaker partner, Daniel Loewenthal are sued by Marcy for Libel and invasion of privacy following iMediaEthics 2012 investigation

The CJR story was crafted differently. The narrative: For years in Columbia University and Brooklyn College journalism classrooms, Porter talked about violating his source’s trust by breaking a confidentiality agreement and naming her. Finally, 43 years after that betrayal, Porter decided to track down Marcy and apologize for revealing her name. Along the way he would record his journey for a documentary film about the encounter. The end.

Porter arrived in Flint on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 along with filmmaker Daniel Loewenthal, who would capture the “reunion” with Marcy for the documentary. Before arriving, Porter made arrangements for research help with Rick Dunning, the manager of information services at the Flint Public Library, and alerted the then, print daily Flint Journal about his visit.

Porter sent a reporter there the WNEW recording. Porter hoped by rehashing the same identifying details of Marcy’s life he first revealed in Newsweek, a reader would “reach someone who had known Marcy,” he wrote in his article for the CJR’s Nov./Dec. 2012 issue. He arranged with Beata Mostafavi, then a Flint Journal reporter, to meet at Flint’s main library, where a photographer could shoot Porter and Loewenthal searching through books and documents.

Michael R. Madden, the librarian for Michigan/local history and genealogy at the Flint Public Library, told iMediaEthics by phone: “I remember saying, ‘What if she does not want to be found?’ Loewenthal answered, ‘Of course she does.'” Meanwhile, on Jan. 7 by 5 p.m., the Flint Journal website posted the article about Porter’s search and photos of him and Loewenthal sitting at a library table with piles of books. A front-page print version of the same story would appear two days later, on Sun., Jan 9.

The next day, it was a long-time library volunteer genealogist and former banker named Burton Mathews, unmentioned in the CJR report, who found Marcy, and handed Porter the critical information.

According to Porter’s CJR piece, a local biker named “Moon” read about Porter’s search and recognized Marcy from the descriptions. Porter said Moon found Loewenthal at the library on Saturday and provided him with Marcy’s full name. “Almost simultaneously,” Loewenthal told iMediaEthics, the genealogist [Mathews] “working with us” also found her name.

Late in the afternoon of Jan. 8, Porter and Loewenthal showed up at Marcy’s front door. She had no way to know an ugly history was about to repeat itself.

In his CJR article, Porter admits that his clumsiness might have visited more harm upon Marcy. But he circumvents a strange trail of lies, omissions and cajoling that undermined his credibility as a reporter and perhaps the documentary that Loewenthal told iMediaEthics should wrap up “in a couple of months.”

The Journal photographed Lowenthal and Porter, Jan. 7 2001, in the Flint Library during their quest to find Marcy. See screenshot detail above. Porter and Lowenthal called the Flint Journal before arriving in Flint, Michigan. Here is the screen shot of the online report letting Marcy’s community know about Porter’s search and her past from 1967, when she was 19 years old. The Flint report repeated un-fact checked allegations published about Marcy in 1967 in a Newsweek cover story. Marcy first denied the truthfulness of the Newsweek account in a 1967 WNEW program. (Credit: the Flint Journal, screenshot).

An encounter uncorks 43 years of frustration

Marcy “was shocked” to see “two men with cameras” on her stoop asking about the Newsweek piece that had caused her so much pain, she told iMediaEthics in one of many phone interviews since Nov 9.

CJR published frame from Porter’s forthcoming documentary footage. Screenshot above showing Porter filming his surprise “reunion” with Marcy on her front stoop Jan 8, 2011 for the documentary. Marcy was shocked to see Porter 43 years after she accused him of lying about her in a Newsweek cover story. Note: iMediaEthics obscured Marcy’s face, address, and identifying information from the above Columbia Journalism Review image from a screen shot detail. We redacted CJR misspelling of Marcy’s last name. (Credit: CJR, screenshot, blue marker added)

In an almost pleading but friendly voice, Marcy explained to iMediaEthics:

“I had really been bamboozled and I was a young kid. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know a darned thing, otherwise I certainly, probably I would have been a lot smarter and not allowed that to happen. … I had no one to protect me.”

Porter’s feature (“Lost and Found”) ran in the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of CJR. It describes Marcy’s reaction to unexpectedly confronting Porter for the first time since he betrayed her in 1967. He wrote of sympathizing with her frustration:

“She immediately lit into me as if she’d been waiting all these years for that guy to show up at her door. That was an awful, awful thing I did to her, taking advantage of a young girl, how painful it was, how horrible it made her feel, and how it had so upset her family, how embarrassing with friends and neighbors reading it. And she was 19, not 17 like I’d written, and she didn’t even know what STP was, although she did admit to a liking for LSD.”

Porter told iMediaEthics by phone that hearing the WNEW radio program with Marcy soon after his Newsweek story ran served as a tipping point for him. He felt empathy and guilt for having violated his journalistic promise of anonymity to a vulnerable source. He said, “I would get lumps in my throat every time” he would listen to the recording.

Yet, here he was in Flint in 2011, again stripping away her privacy. He wrote in the CJR:

“Before leaving, we’d called the Flint Journal and convinced them to do a story about our search, hoping to reach someone who had known Marcy. We got to Flint on a Friday.”

By the evening of Porter’s visit, the story from her hometown newspaper was online, Marcy realized Porter had led a lamb to the slaughter a second time.

The 2012 CJR feature, which revealed even more personal details of Marcy’s life, constituted a third. Her family name, her parents’ full names (albeit missspelled) , the name of her father’s business, her late sister’s and brother’s names and her ex-husband’s full name and number of children — all ran in CJR without her knowledge. A photo of Marcy at her front door, with her house number visible, accompanied the story.

She had no idea Porter was writing about her in the CJR until iMediaEthics called her in early November to ask her about the story. iMediaEthics learned that no one had notified her of the publication. It had been a year since she had heard from the documentary team, Marcy said.


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE (Credit: Alberto Mena for iMediaEthics)

Marcy asked iMediaEthics for the CJR link so she could read the article. “He should have let me know before he did that,” she said, angry. “I’m hearing something from you but I didn’t hear anything from them.”

Marcy said she quickly emailed and called Porter, Loewenthal and CJR editors after reading the article on Nov. 8, 2012.

Marcy’s email to Brent Cunningham, CJR deputy editor, which she provided to iMediaEthics, stated:

“I am writing you about the current Columbia Journalism Review Article concerning myself. Written by Bruce Porter…there are many false statements and actual downright lies in the article. … I wonder why a publication such as the Columbia Journalism Review did not use due diligence to fact check the article before publication. I have left several messages for you and now I respectfully request that you respond.”

Cunningham emailed her a reply: “Will call you next week to discuss alleged factual inaccuracies in Porter’s article. In the meantime, please send me, via email, the specific things you think are inaccurate.”

There were more than a few.

Unaddressed errors in Porter’s 1967 Newsweek reporting are repeated in CJR

One of the main problems for Marcy is that Porter had not addressed many of the errors in the original Newsweek article. Back in 1967, the WNEW radio program, broadcast in the wake of his Newsweek article, had already amply apprised Porter of the harm done to Marcy personally, as well as of her claims of serious factual errors.

WNEW journalist Steve Young began his 1967 broadcast: “Marcy is 19 years old. She comes from a town in Michigan.” This fact contradicts the first sentence in Porter’s Newsweek article of the same year: “At 17, Marcy is a gentle girl.” Indeed, iMediaEthics verified that Marcy was 19 in 1967, legally an adult, and had graduated from high school in 1966.

The late Steve Young, WNEW reporter who recorded Marcy in his home following the Newsweek cover story that so upset her. The recording included her side of a conversation with her mother on the phone. She soulfully pleads for her mom to still love her after reading the Newsweek report that reveals her drug use and other heartbreaking details and allegations. (Credit: Provided by WNEW 1130 AM. Webmaster, Edward Brown).

Marcy emailed iMediaEthics a list of errors and concerns about the CJR story, some of which she had originally addressed to Cunningham. Here are some of those comments, in Marcy’s words:

  • Being informed of and reading your article has caused me a lot of grief.
  • So very much is untrue and the idea that my dead siblings names and my parents full names and employment are listed and my x husband too, really upsets me terrifically.
  • There were so many unbelievable lies in The Original Newsweek article October 30, 1967. That I was flabbergasted by them then and I still am and that was 45 yrs ago.
  • The Columbia Journalism Review article begins with a photo of the Newsweek cover making it easy for readers to research and read this article as well.
  • I will start with this and the [1967] recording by Mr. Young (deceased) where I said to my mother that the article was lies. This statement was not in your article.
  • I was not getting along with my father but I was 18, of age and left home….I did not run away.
  • We all have different lives we live and this article additionally failed to mention I did graduate college and make a good of my life…..which I continue to do.
  • I did jump out of a moving car on a Detroit freeway. I was hitchhiking with a boy with long hair and the driver who picked us up was angry because it wasn’t two girls he picked up. I was very frightened by him and jumped out of the car. I was taken to an American Hospital emergency room treated and released. I never spent 2 weeks in an Ontario Hospital. I never ever took any illegal intravenous drugs and certainly not Morphine….my God where was one to get that kind of stuff? Hippies were all about grass and LSD.
  • I did have an abortion but it was caused by a pill I took and no abortion scenario (what a lie that one is) Sensational for readers I guess.
  •  I was never involved with The Outlaws Motorcycle gang although a room mate and friend did have a boyfriend in the gang and that was in San Francisco and he was never anything but a gentleman towards us.
  • Drummer boyfriend “Twig” nope, this is a lie.
  • They (Porter and Loewenthal) did promise not to use my name! It is so easy to make up any other name. I don’t really know why they did that.
  • My pet cat did not die.
  • Boyfriend “Walrus” was a friend but sure not named walrus and not a boyfriend at all…..but a nice acquaintance. Not sex. not a drug pusher,a med student at the college. a very nice guy.
  • I never slept on park benches ever.
  • I certainly was never beat up with a milk crate!!
  • This whole thing makes me very angry.

Marcy told iMediaEthics that neither Porter nor CJR fact-checkers ever asked about her allegations of errors in the Newsweek report, errors they were about to repeat. The CJR story was framed as Porter’s journey to atone for revealing her identity in 1967. Why wouldn’t CJR consult with Marcy to make sure the new article wasn’t also a violation? Further, no one asked permission to reveal her family’s names and other previously unpublished personal details.

The WNEW program provided plenty of evidence that Porter, and now CJR fact-checkers, should have reviewed the Newsweek story with Marcy. At the least, CJR was ethically obliged to provide what Marcy described to iMediaEthics as “her version of events” about her life or to ask for documents to compare against Porter’s notes. In media ethics terms, this verification step would include the right of reply to sensitive and unflattering information attributed to her that she has denied since 1967.

A cornerstone of her frustration was learning of the 1967 WNEW recording, which Porter informed her of and which she heard for the first time through a link in the Flint paper’s story. Marcy was irate that Porter had provided the Journal with the old recording, which she says was taped without her knowledge. Compounding the indignity, Porter told her that Newsweek readers moved by her story sent “like five thousands dollars” to the magazine, meant for her. (In 2011 dollars, that’d be about 33 grand.) Oh, but when Marcy asked Porter in 2011 where the money went, neither Porter nor the person she spoke with at Newsweek had any idea. The Newsweek employee told her, “it was too long ago.” iMediaEthics has also contacted Newsweek to inquire about Marcy’s money. We will update this story with any response.

“I’m going to write a letter to Newsweek. Where’s the money? Did it go to charity?” Marcy, asking about the money Newsweek readers sent in for her in 1967

Alan Walden, WNEW’s director of news and public affairs in 1967, was listed “executive producer” on the LP, titled, “A Child, Again.” He confirmed to iMediaEthics that the LP was made and sent across the United States for students as a “public service” because of its popularity, as the Flint Journal first reported.

Walden vigorously denied Marcy’s charge that Young taped her without permission.

Porter knows Walden, and Loewenthal filmed him twice for their documentary. Yet in his CJR feature, Porter does not mention Walden or Marcy’s allegation that Young taped her surreptitiously. Porter only criticizes the late Young as a “creep” who conducted the interview in an oily manner.

Walden was gobsmacked when iMediaEthics informed him.

Porter and Loewenthal hadn’t been in touch for a year. They’d told Walden nothing of Marcy’s charge that Young secretly recorded her. When iMediaEthics relayed to Walden the CJR passage about Young, he exclaimed, “It’s slanderous!” More on this later.

LP cover of WNEW recording,  “A Child, Again,” featuring a 19 year old Marcy in the 1967 news radio documentary, The LP was distributed to schools throughout the US. (Credit: Alan Walden). Here is the text on the back cover


Lies and apologies to Flint journalist left out of CJR report

Porter readily admits and apologizes for his ethical failings. He wrote for CJR readers that he told Marcy on her doorstep:

“After agreeing that I’d done a terrible thing and apologizing a dozen times, I told her this man with the camera who was coming up the walk right now was my associate, Dan Loewenthal, and that we were here to do a film about the consequences of such careless and thoughtless journalism, hoping to make amends and be forgiven. And on and on. Eventually she relaxed, and invited us into her living room.”

Porter enumerated his “infractions” for iMediaEthics by phone.

“I’m counting three,” Porter said. “The first one is the Newsweek piece, right, where I identified her.”

“The next one was calling The Flint Journal before we found Marcy,” he said. “I was aghast that we had forgotten to tell Marcy not only about the piece [but also that] I gave The Flint Journal a copy of the radio program to let the reporter hear what Marcy had said. It did not occur to me I don’t know why it shouldn’t, but I’m an old print journalist that they would put in a reference to it, that readers could access it.”

“And then the third one was the one you bring you up about when the [Flint Journal] reporter called me about Marcy, I misled her to think that Marcy was not in Flint.”

CJR readers had no disclosure about this third infraction; iMediaEthics found it independently.

Porter failed to reveal in CJR that he not only lied to Beata Mostafavi at the Flint Journal but that his Flint trip embarrassed Marcy with a total of five articles not merely the one Porter mentions in CJR.

“I said she lived in Hawaii, and that was true if you used the past tense” Porter told iMediaEthics.

Porter did not disclose to his CJR editors the public outing he received from lying to Mostafavi.

Mostafavi wrote the article in the Flint Journal (Jan. 7/9) that Porter solicited before he found Marcy. As events unfolded, Mostafavi wrote four follow-up stories.

Five Flint Journal stories about Porter’s search for Marcy, by Beata Mostafavi, 2011

  1. Jan 7/9        Friday online, Sunday front-page, about Porter’s search for Marcy
  2. Jan 16/17   Sunday front-page, about Porter finding Marcy married and living in Hawaii, Online Monday
  3. Jan 18         Online story about Marcy calling the Journal to dispute Porter’s story
  4. Jan 18         Online only, with Porter’s response to charges of lying, including his admission and apology
  5. Jan 19/20    Wednesday online, Thursday front-page, with details about Porter deceiving the Journal and Marcy’s feelings

After the Jan. 7/9 story, Porter wrote to Marcy letting her know that the Flint reporter had contacted him. “I tried to be vague about everything without actually lying,” he wrote in an upbeat email Marcy provided to iMediaEthics. “I’m not very good at being evasive. … I told her you were unhappy over the radio interview and that you didn’t feel comfortable sharing your life just now any more than that.” Seemingly not worried, Porter chirped, “So that’s the wisdom from my end. Hope you guys didn’t get as much snow as we did. Best, Bruce.”

A 2011 Flint Journal masthead.

A 2011 Flint Journal masthead

Three days later, when the next Sunday front-page article hit the front porches of Flint, Marcy was again in shock. Smoldering with anger, she wrote to Porter: “The Flint Journal has printed an article today that amounts to front-page coverage and again 1/2 a page on the interior…By now Bruce, many in Flint know this article was about you searching for me. They know I am here and today’s article lies about me being married and my whereabouts. It says that I have been found, married living in Hawaii. I am not a liar and certainly would have wanted the truth to be the truth. Here I am and I do not want to talk to any other reporters about my experiences…as we have agreed. Please write to me and comment. Thank You.”

Porter’s response about seven hours later minimized the issue of his lying. He wrote:

“Hi [redacted] (I’ll start calling you that rather than Marcy, I guess)–Well, the article you sent is a little garbled on the facts, but I don’t think it paints you in a bad light. The guy who knew you remembers liking you, and the email response from Journal readers was also not uncomplimentary. I’m afraid, though, in trying not to let the reporter know you had returned to Flint, I said some things that led her to make mistakes. Such as I told her we found you in the library files as living in Hawaii and married with children. That was true, of course, since the web search site we were using was accurate only up to 2002. I didn’t tell her you had since moved to Flint, so she then went ahead and wrote that you were still married and still living in Hawaii. I’m sorry about that. As I said it’s hard being accurate with people but not telling them the whole truth. I hope she’s given up, and the Journal’s interest in the story will die out and leave you in peace for a while.”

With the documentary still a goal, Porter’s reply switches gears. Porter told her his partner was arranging to speak to her son for the documentary. “Dan [Loewenthal] phoned today and said he was going to talk to [redacted] tonight, and that [redacted] seemed like a really nice, smart person.” [iMediaEthics is not revealing the name of Marcy’s son to protect his privacy.]

Terrified that people would assume she was the source of the lies, Marcy called Mostafavi. She felt she had to agree to yet another article “to set the record straight.” The Flint Journal agreed to not use her full name. She told Mostafavi in the story: “I’m an honest person, and I don’t want people to think I’m lying about where I live. I have lived such an unbelievable life. I don’t need to lie about it.” The story stated: “Marcy lived in Hawaii for 32 years, finished college, held various jobs, had children and moved back to Flint in 1999.”

Mostafavi was also furious to learn Porter deceived her

Mostafavi had written falsehoods based on Porter’s statements that Marcy “has moved on to a new life in Hawaii” and that he had only spoken to her by phone briefly in Hawaii, not face-to-face at her childhood home and for many hours on Jan 7 and 8. He even added flourishes, Mostafavi wrote, that “he hopes to visit Hawaii, where she lives” and “she had occasionally visited Flint but not for any long period of time.” All lies.

The Flint Jounal announces Porter’s discovery of Marcy on its front-page. One of Porter’s lies is highlighted in yellow. Above, screen shot of online version of the Jan 16, 2012 front page print article. (Credit: the Flint Journal, Screenshot) .

Porter later fessed up to Mostafavi, who reported his mea culpa. “I wanted to protect Marcy,” Porter said. “She was very upset and didn’t want people bothering her. I didn’t want people to know she was living there.” Also: “The most important thing was to keep people away from Marcy.”

Porter’s lies to the Flint journalist were first reported online Jan 18, 2011, following Marcy’s complaint to the Journal. See screenshot above of the fourth Flint Journal article, in which Porter admits “misleading” the reporter and excuses it by saying he was trying to protect Marcy. (Credit: the Flint Journal, Screenshot).

iMediaEthics also called Mostafavi. She sent us a statement we reproduce here in full:

Beata Mostafavi, former Flint Journal reporter:

Bruce Porter gave us this story. I was drawn to the angle of this man’s quest to find this young woman from all those years ago, a journey he was so earnest about that he made the trip all the way to Flint, Mich. to look for her. There were many compelling parts: A retired Newsweek reporter becoming a reporter again, coming to Flint to look for a woman with only a first name and his claim that he wanted to apologize.

“He was a fellow journalist with a background writing for a national publication, a professor and on staff at Columbia University. I trusted him as a credible source. He was the last person I would expect to get burned by. We ran an entire front page story based on false information he gave me. When Marcy called and told me the real story, I felt awful. She agreed to another article in the paper that allowed her to tell her own story and that included her correct information but asked me to leave out her last name, which I agreed to do.

“Mr. Porter said he gave me false information in order to protect Marcy. That’s why I was surprised that in the CJR story, he not only again brings up the old details of her life but he prints new details, including her last name—which I don’t believe has ever been published until now.”

Mostafavi’s editor at the time, Marjory Rayner, told iMediaEthics she was “traumatized” that Porter’s lies appeared on the front page of their paper. She provided a statement.

Marjory Rayner, Flint Journal Editor:

“We, too, felt betrayed by Mr. Porter, who chose to lie to our reporter.

“There actually were two Sunday articles in The Flint Journal – one that detailed their search. The second Sunday report detailed how Mr. Porter claimed he had found Marcy in Hawaii and that he hoped to visit her there – which was totally false.

“‘Marcy’ was outraged when she saw her hometown paper had the wrong facts about her life after the second Sunday story. She was indeed in Flint and she had already met with Mr. Porter at her home – not a phone conversation as Mr. Porter claimed.

“Our series of three print articles on the search for ‘Marcy’ all appeared on the front page of The Flint Journal. We went out of our way to make sure we corrected the record.

“Our coverage also included immediate posts online detailing Mr. Porter’s self-described ‘bad decision’ to not be factual with the Journal reporter.”

Porter’s response to iMediaEthics: “It is totally about me rather than Marcy”

iMediaEthics interviewed Porter once, at length, to ask about this troubling episode with The Flint Journal. After sending us the WNEW recording, the Newsweek article and two emails, Porter has since not returned our calls. Porter said:

“The reporter went with what I told her. Then there was a totally erroneous story appeared. Marcy got upset at that and called the reporter and the reporter of course said, ‘What? You’re living in Flint? Well, Bruce didn’t tell me that’ and got furious at me, and rightfully so. So that was another ethical thing that I failed, trying to protect Marcy, but the whole thing was pretty ill-advised and I sorely regret it and called the reporter later and apologized, so she was pretty pissed off. So that end of it didn’t turn out with a huge amount of glory.”

Why did Porter not disclose this debacle in his CJR piece? After all, he reported that the Sunday front page Flint Journal article was key to his finding Marcy.

While reading his CJR report, iMediaEthics looked up the Flint Journal article only to discover the paper had published two Sunday front page articles among a total of five, not only the one the CJR reported. Three of those dealt with Porter’s lying to another journalist — a serious discredit to Porter and a breach of readers’ trust.


Mar. 30, 1967 to Nov. 2012

45 years of CJR reporter’s

Oct 30, 1967 Cover story

“Trouble in Hippieland”

DOCUMENT: Newsweek
“Gentle Marcy,
A Shattering Tale

by Bruce Porter in 1967  
“A Child, Again,”

Steve Young’s 1967 News Documentary

Was teen secretly recorded
in reporter’s home?

“All I had was 3,000 words to tell the whole story,” Porter said. “I feel that it’s the next chapter of the story. If I’m going to do another story about ethical malfeasance then I would get into what happened when the reporter called me. But I saw that as another story, or as chapter two, and the story I wrote ended at chapter one and I thought that was well-known.”

“I didn’t expect the reporter’s call,” he continued. “I expected to leave town and that was it…As I said before I should have been honest and asked the reporter not to use parts that I thought were going to embarrass Marcy. I just didn’t respond properly and I take all the blame for it.”

Porter sprinkled excuses between apologies.  He said that the Journal reporter’s call on Jan. 13, 2011 “just threw me into some sort of moral confusion and that’s what I came out with.” He continued: “I think I wrote her a letter. She [later] said ‘How could a Columbia University professor mislead a reporter?’ and I said, ‘You’re absolutely right.'”

Porter confirmed with iMediaEthics that he sent apology letters to both Marcy and Mostafavi. He kindly shared them with us. (Marcy and Mostafavi sent iMediaEthics copies themselves).

In the email to Mostafavi on Jan. 19, 2011, he recaps the circumstances that led to his lying to her. In part:

“She [Marcy] was still very angry over the Newsweek article, which had greatly upset her parents, her mother especially. I had to tell her it was all going to happen again, that the Journal was running a story tomorrow about our search. And that upset her some more. She felt the Newsweek piece had presented her as not a nice person and that more publicity would carry that impression into the present…

“So anyway that was on my mind the following Wednesday I think when we talked on the phone. I should have done what you suggested, to tell the truth and we devise some way to deal with it. Instead, of course, I didn’t. I resolved not to lie directly — I’m not so sure I was completely successful in that — but to answer questions in a way that no one would know she was now living back in Flint.

“Again, I apologize for what I did and am sorry for all the grief I must have caused you at the paper. At Columbia I frequently use ethical lapses on my part as bad examples for the class to thrash out. This is probably the worst thing I’ve done, and I hope you’ll forgive me.”

By Jan. 23, Porter wrote to Marcy and included a one-paragraph apology.

“Dear Marcy—I wanted to write to apologize for the not-very-good job I did dealing with the Flint Journal when they called to ask me what happened to our search. I should have leveled with the reporter Beata Mostafavi instead of leaving her with the impression that you were still living in Hawaii. That wasn’t good for anyone, as it turned out, and I really regret it. Usually, believe it or not, I have pretty good judgment about things, but that was a serious mistake and I hope you’ll forgive me.”

He closed by stating that he hopes “the attention from the Journal fades into the background.”


See: Document:  Porter’s apology emails to Mostafavi, Flint reporter and Marcy


This is indeed hard for iMediaEthics to believe. If the documentary is about Porter’s pursuit of Marcy to make amends, and his process continues to disregard her, what is really going on here? Is Porter really concerned about his vulnerable source or is this all about mining her life for a documentary? Porter repeats his failure to warn Marcy about the Flint Journal articles when he wrote the CJR magazine feature.

Despite Porter’s insistence that he wants privacy for Marcy, his actions tell a the story of a man determined to exploit the same woman again and again for his own benefit. The CJR print version reveals that the Marcy story is going global soon: “The producer, Dan Loewenthal, plans to finish the documentary about Marcy in spring 2013 and submit it to film festivals in North America and Europe.”

Brent Cunningham to iMediaEthics: “This has taken enough of my time”

iMediaEthics interviewed Brent Cunningham, CJR‘s deputy editor by phone once. We asked him whether the magazine called Marcy to fact-check or to obtain her consent for running her name and other identifying facts. iMediaEthics also asked whether Porter informed CJR that he had lied to another reporter about Marcy and finding her in Flint.

Cunningham answered “no” to both questions.

“I think you should not lie generally in life and certainly not as a journalist,” Cunningham said. “I told him that on the phone.”                                                                     

He continued: “I would agree that that was probably not the best course of action but it doesn’t really have much bearing on our story. Our story was strictly about him going to find her and making a documentary about it.”

Cunningham’s and CJR‘s stance comes down to this: Since Porter’s lies occurred after finding Marcy at her home, where the article ended, the magazine didn’t need to know nor to include anything about them in the piece.

After mentioning Marcy by name 40 times, the CJR story ends with a narrative cliffhanger. Porter leaves Marcy after about an hour, but oh! horrors! having forgotten to tell her about the article that he solicited from the Journal. It would soon, as he acknowledges, re-launch the Newsweek story and the WNEW interview into her community after 43 years of reprieve. The final CJR paragraphs:

“As it grew dark, we said we had to go, but made a date for lunch the next day. It wasn’t until we reached our motel that I realized I’d forgotten to tell her about the story that was running tomorrow on the front page of the Sunday Journal. Thanks to the digital age, it would include not only the reporter’s interview with Dan and me, but also the original Newsweek story, as well as the radio interview on WNEW. All of Flint would now listen in as Steve Young slid that old phone over to the clueless flower child and asked in his unctuous fashion: ‘Would you like to call your parents?’

“It was as if I’d never learned a thing. Oh, Marcy, I thought, I’ve done it to you all over again!”

This Britney Spears-worthy “Oops!…I did it again” ending, leaving an already injured source open to further harm, works for pop songs and fiction but this is CJR, among the elite media business and ethics publications. That heartless ending abandoned a real 65-year-old woman with no voice. It provided no resolution for readers about how she fared when her friends, neighbors and children learn from the front page of the Journal that in 1967 she had a “$200 abortion,” and was “hooked on acid.”

During the single phone interview iMediaEthics had with Cunningham, we made it clear that there were errors in his report and offered several times to send a list. He said “maybe” and that he wanted to wait until he spoke to Marcy, “as that was more relevant.” But instead of talking to Marcy, he sent a kiss-off email that stated, without discussion, that her list of errors of errors she sent him  “does not rise to the level of a published correction.”

CJR’s Brent Cunningham blew off Marcy’s multiple requests to speak with him. CJR nor Porter called her before they published. He has worked at CJR since 1999, WritersDigest reported. (Credit: Writers Digest, screenshot)

In his email to iMediaEthics, he says nothing about our list of errors, a few of which we detailed on the phone. He instead cut off any option of our sending in our list of errors. “Please understand that this is all I’m going to say about it,” he wrote. “This has taken enough of my time.” Such incuriosity in the face of unexplored criticism was a surprise, coming from CJR.


See: Document:  Brent Cunningham’s email responses to Marcy and iMediaEthics   


Indeed, the errors are measurable and objective. They display a sloppiness by fact-checkers and confusion, to put it charitably, by Porter.

Incuriosity killed the cat: Unexamined errors in Columbia Journalism Review‘s report

Porter wrote in CJR that Marcy would have been 14 in 1954. “A Flint librarian told us that back then she would have attended one of three high schools, and been listed as Marcy somebody-or-other in the freshman class entering the fall of 1954, when she was 14,” he wrote. He added: “At the Flint Central Library, the yearbook gambit also proved a dead end. No Marcys in the 1954 books, or the classes on either side.”

Do the math. Marcy was born in 1948. In 1954, she’d be 6. Making this error particularly sloppy is that Porter told The Flint Journal that he found Marcy’s picture in her high school yearbook, correctly identifying her school, saying “I didn’t recognize her.” Error.

Flint Librarian, Alonzo W. Hill found her picture for iMediaEthics in the 1966 yearbook.  Porter misspelled her last name eight times in his story. Too bad CJR fact checkers did not call Marcy.  She would have told them how to correclty spell her name. Error.

Next, CJR identified the name of the WNEW program as “Marcy, A Child Again.” Nope. Alan Walden, the executive producer of the show confirmed, it’s “A Child, Again.” At least The Flint Journal got it right.

When we talked to Porter, he had no idea the Flint Journal report that appeared in print on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 first appeared online Friday, Jan. 7, not on Saturday, Jan. 8, as he stated in the CJR. Error.

In the CJR, Porter wrote that on Jan. 7, 2011, “We flew to Detroit, rented a car, and drove the 50 miles up to Flint. It was cold, with about a foot of snow on the ground.” The recorded snow accumulation depth for that day in Flint was just 1 inch, according to Scott Stephens, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist iMediaEthics contacted. Another error.

Porter wrote about that “biker dude” named Moon who showed up in the Flint library on Saturday and provided Marcy’s full name. Porter explained: “He’d seen the story in the Sunday issue of the Journal, which had appeared online that day, ahead of schedule.” Wrong again. The story appeared two days ahead of the Sunday print edition, on Friday not Saturday. He also wrote, “We got to Flint on a Friday, and the story was scheduled to run that Sunday.” That, at least, is partly right. The Journal reporter filed the story right after her interview with the duo at the library on Friday. Only a print version was scheduled for Sunday.

Porter also wrote that in 1967, after interviewing Marcy for Newsweek, he “handed her the few dollars in [his] pocket, said to wait there for the photographer.” Yet in the WNEW interview with Marcy two weeks later, she describes how she was offered $65 (worth perhaps $400 in 2011 terms) in advance of the Newsweek interview. To state that Porter gave her a “few dollars” as a personal gesture and not on behalf of Newsweek is inaccurate and misleading.

Cunningham told iMediaEthics that CJR’s fact-checkers used the Newsweek article to verify the CJR article.

Yet iMediaEthics found several transpositions of “facts” were jumbled in this game of telephone.

There were two separate sentences and incidents that Marcy recalled in Newsweek. Porter wrote then in Newsweek:

“‘I got beat up on Eleventh Street, not really beat up, a colored guy threw a milk case through a window and it knocked me out. I got beat up in Washington Square though. I went up to four cops…”

These two distinct instances — getting hit with a milk crate thrown through a window on 11th Street and getting beat up in Washington Square Park — were conflated into a single incident in CJR. Marcy was beat up with a milk crate in Tompkins Square Park, a completely different park. (Porter wrote in CJR: “Someone beat her up with a milk crate in Tompkins Square Park.”)

In Newsweek, Porter wrote about a bruise on Marcy’s leg. “It turned beautiful colors, but they said it was gangrene. And it really hurt.” In CJR this quote became hurried shorthand and inaccurate: “She said it turned ‘beautiful colors, but it hurt.’”

Porter also wrote in Newsweek that Marcy’s cat had “run away.” Marcy said in the 1967 magazine, “We found it later but its eyes were all infected. I really loved that cat.” There is nothing in the Newsweek report about her cat dying. Alas, in CJR Porter wrote, “The cat got sick and died.” Outside of a quantum state, Marcy’s cat can’t be both dead and alive at the same time. Another error.

Marcy protested. She wrote to iMediaEthics, “I certainly was never beat up with a milk crate!!” and at the time of the Newsweek interview “My pet cat did not die.”

Her Nov. 11 email to Cunningham states, “If you would like me to state what the many, many errors in the Newsweek article are I will do so and send them to you as well.” When she did, Cunningham dismissed her out of hand.

“The fact checkers? There was nothing in the [CJR] story that was wrong.” Porter to iMediaEthics

Porter also introduced new facts in the CJR article that were not fact-checked. “Moon” made his first appearance in CJR, which made no attempt to confirm his existence, no phone calls to the library. Cunningham could not rely on the 1967 Newsweek article to determine if this portion of the story was true.

Undoubtedly, Porter’s piece is a fact-checkers’ fail. Theirs and Cunningham’s incuriosity about Porter’s facts killed the cat.

Why did Marcy sign a release for Porter’s documentary?

With an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em” attitude, Marcy told iMediaEthics that she signed the documentary release with Porter and Loewenthal, recognizing that “everyone was making money but me.” Marcy didn’t have a lawyer but she insisted on an addendum that she saw as protective because it gave her “final approval” of the film. She thought this would ensure her approval on what personal information would be included. Marcy shared with iMediaEthics a copy of the contract and emails she exchanged with Loewenthal and Porter.

Loewenthal told iMediaEthics, “We have an agreement with Marcy and she signed off on it…She wants to see the final version but we have her life [story] rights. And I interviewed her son. I have a release from him. We interviewed a bunch of – everybody we’ve interviewed we have releases from.”

Marcy was paid $500 for the project upfront, with promises for more if other funding or profits come through. But from her dealings with Loewenthal, it’s clear her role is something short of true partner in this venture.

On Feb. 25, 2011 Loewenthal sent the pitch. Subject: Moving forward.

I wanted to get back to you regarding our project. I am finally starting to feel like myself and starting to tackle outstanding projects and new one. I would very much like to move forward and create a film about you and the 60’s and a variety of related topics.
Bruce and I began this project in earnest almost two years ago as we began the search for you. I am still over whelmed that we found you and very impressed with you as a human being.
I see the film as an American odyessy. About a time, a person and a family against a variety of social backgrounds.
So far we have been self funded. At some point when we have a little more material I want to put together a sell reel and try to find a backer for the project. I don’t know how profitable this film could be but I feel it has theatrical possibility and would definitely get notice at major film festivals, eventual TV and video sales would follow. We would have you as a participant in the film’s profits, pay you a consultant fee when budgets are raised and work together with you on the production.
IF you send me you phone number I can call you and we can talk further.

Marcy answered on Feb. 26. “Dan, The contract is the protection I want and deserve,” she wrote. “Also when you were taping me at my home my 22 year old son witnessed my statement that you did not have my permission to use any of it. I am scared about it all and I feel justifiably.”

Loewenthal remained positive. “In many ways this is a film about you, but it is also a film about you and Bruce,” he wrote on March 11. “Meeting you and seeing the depth of your character and the complexity of your life and the warmth and strength you possess is also compelling.”

On Mar. 16, Loewenthal reassured her: “You will also be shaping what we shoot with us.”

By the time of Marcy’s Mar. 24, 2011 email, any salesman could see her taking the bait. “Dear Dan: Still thinking …. can I have final approval of whatever is said about me?” she wrote. “I think they call that approval of the end cut. I don’t believe in lying but some things a person is uncomfortable about.”

Again on March 25, 2011, Loewenthal reassured her: “Marcy, I am sure we can work something out.” He added that he was “very impressed with you as a human being.”

On May 27, Marcy signed the addendum. The release reads, “I also want final approval of the end cut of the film.”

Cunningham mentioned the documentary in the interview with iMediaEthics and his emails to both iMediaEthics and Marcy.

In the email to Marcy, the CJR editor wrote: “we did not need your permission to publish your name and the names of your relatives, etc. (We also took into consideration the fact that you signed a release to be part of the documentary that Bruce and Dan are making.)” Cunningham told iMediaEthics, “We took care to not publish her address or her married name, which is what she uses now.”

In fact, CJR effectively published her married name (by revealing her ex-husband’s full name), and her home’s street address number is visible in a photo CJR ran. Besides, where is the virtue of “taking care to not publish her address”?  Is CJR in the practice of publishing source’s addresses in their articles? iMediaEthics could not find an instance of CJR putting another source’s home address into print.

iMediaEthics asked Cunningham about the privacy matter of CJR revealing her family name and the rest without her permission, and her not being contacted before publication. “Probably true. She should have been [contacted],” Cunningham agreed, “but she’s cooperating with the documentary, at least she was. That was my understanding. Right?”

He would have known for certain had CJR fact-checkers called Marcy.

But the magazine did not independently confirm with Marcy her understanding of the documentary deal or examine emails sent among Marcy and Porter and Loewenthal. Further, the CJR didn’t mention that Porter paid Marcy, a source, $500 for the documentary.

“To me that’s not germane to the story,” Cunningham responded. Yet earlier he stated: “Our story was strictly about him going to find her and making a documentary about it.”

iMediaEthics asked Marcy for her reaction on seeing the CJR piece after signing the contract. “I sure never thought that they would publish without my knowledge or approval of what was published,” she replied. And she was surprised to see Porter once again making money off her story, this time from CJR.

Was Marcy secretly recorded in Young’s home, as Porter told The Journal?

So now back to Alan Walden, the director of news and public affairs in 1967 for WNEW AM and FM. He told iMediaEthics that he was never questioned or informed by Porter about Marcy’s claim that she was secretly recorded.

Young died in 2003. Neither Porter nor CJR contacted Walden for WNEW’s side of the story on the way to pinning “What a creep!” on Young, who Porter wrote questioned Marcy in an “unctuous fashion.”

In Porter’s words:

“Young then cut in, his voice lowered to a whisper, like some guy in an alley selling a hot watch. ‘Would you like to call your parents?’ he asked. ‘Oh, wow, you don’t mean it!’ she said. ‘It’s early in the morning, but I’d love to talk to my mother.’ He slid the phone to her, and you could hear her dialing. Her mother answered, but you could catch only Marcy’s end of the conversation.”

Walden, retired from radio, teaches as an associate faculty member in the Department of Communication Arts at Notre Dame of Maryland University. In 2005, the Society of Professional Journalists gave him the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. Walden told iMediaEthics he participated in Porter and Loewenthal’s documentary, granting them two interviews, including one at a reunion of WNEW employees. So Walden found it strange that Porter did not reach out to him in advance of the CJR story.

“I think they [CJR and Porter] should have gotten in touch with me,” Walden told iMediaEthics.

See Document:  Walden’s Rebuttals to Porter’s charges in CJR


Alan Walden, WNEW’s director of news and public affairs in 1967, was listed “executive producer” on the LP,  titled, “A Child, Again.” Walden wrote the text on the LP’s back cover.

He explained: “The general manager of WNEW at the time, Harvey Glascock, he’s dead. [The late] Steve Young …can’t defend himself. The man who was the producer technician on the program is dead, and that leaves me.”

Alan Walden provided a photo with caption of a reunion of ” WNEW news and/or programming alumnus of a period during which ‘A Child, Again’ was produced.” He wrote iMediaEthics: “On the far left is Mike Stein, the best radio news writer/reporter I ever met. He was my assistant news director in ’67. Next to Stein is Bill Diehl, semi-retired but still doing feature material for ABC Radio News. From there, going left, are Sam Hall, Marlene Sanders, Nat Asch (Program Director of WNEW-FM when the program was produced), Andy Fisher, Rudy Ruderman, Me, Al Wasser (sitting), Ray Rice, John Bohannon, and Mike Forrest…Marlene Sanders had left WNEW by 1967 for WCBS Television.” (Credit: Alan Walden, March 8, 2009).

Walden was not in Young’s home when the segment was recorded, he said, but he did make the ultimate decision to air the interview.  “I think their [CJR‘s] perspective would have been more accurate and believable had they at least seen fit to talk to me,” he said.

The “A Child, Again” program was part of WNEW’s weekly “Sunday News Close Up” series. Read more about it here on the back of the LP cover in Walden’s own words as the excutive producer.

It aired on Nov. 12 and 26, 1967, on both WNEW-AM news and WNEW-FM stations. The reach was about three-quarters of a million listeners, Walden said.

Enthusiastic listener response prompted WNEW to press a 33–r.p.m. vinyl record of the award-winning program, Walden said. In the notes he wrote for the LP, Walden described the recording as “eavesdropping on a soul.”

But again, he disputes Marcy’s charge now that she was recorded without her knowledge.

Five hippies who were crashing at Young’s New York apartment, where Young recorded the interview, also witnessed it. “She heard it, Steve told me that she heard it, because they were in his apartment all night,” Walden said. “I have no reason, based on my personal experience with Steve Young, who as I described him yesterday was an extraordinarily gifted recorder and a thoroughly decent human being from my association with him, would lie to me. Why would he do that? He had no reason to lie to me.”

But her story is plausible. As amply indicated in the radio interview itself, she was still upset about Newsweek. “Please, Mother, still love me when you read it,” she pleaded in the WNEW recording. “Oh, Momma, oh, Momma, I really love you. I thought you wouldn’t love me anymore.”

So why would Marcy have agreed to another interview two weeks later?

He said; She said

Marcy, now in her sixties, says she didn’t know that the friendly man who offered to let her and five other hippies she was traveling with crash at his New York City apartment, was a journalist.

She was gun-shy. Porter had burned her just two weeks earlier.

In interviews with iMediaEthics, Marcy is adamant that she had no idea her talk with Young and phone call to her mom were recorded, let alone aired on radio, or made into an LP. Marcy says she only learned of the broadcast in 2011, when her hometown paper linked to Young’s interview.

What possible evidence exists? Marcy and Walden agree she never signed a release; Walden says he’s the only person still living among the three who prepared the program.

Walden said Young met Marcy in the East Village and told his boss he planned to do an interview.

“It wasn’t in the studio,” Walden said. “It wasn’t at WNEW, because he felt that would be intrusive, and probably would defeat the purpose of the interview. He wanted to keep it intimate.”

Further, Walden said, Young used a Nagra III reel-to-reel recorder, a device that was too large to hide. “We spent a lot of money on them,” Walden said. “It was the size of a small suitcase. It was there. It was right there in the room, and there was no way she could not have known what was going on.”

The Nagra II served as the reel to reel recorder that Steve Young used in his home to tape Marcy in 1967 for the WNEW broadcasts.

But is that true? Does the quality of the “A Child, Again” recording exclude the possibility that Marcy was secretly recorded? Was it too big to hide?

Hoping to find the original tape, iMediaEthics contacted the website for WNEW 1130 AM. Webmaster Edward Brown, a veteran broadcaster, replied that he knew of no central archive. Walden’s best versions of the recording are on LP.

iMediaEthics consulted several experts for their forensic opinions on the Nagra III and its audio quality. We asked: Is the quality possible with a hidden mic?

John Owens, the sales director of Nagra Recorders, in Switzerland, replied: “It is possible, but I cannot say more than that. It depends on the circumstances (Microphone type, positioning, recording speed, environment, machine calibration etc etc.”


See Document:  Manual for Nagra III  reel to reel tape recorder circa 1960’s


Three others ventured an educated guess.

— Charlie Sandlin, an audio specialist in New Hampshire whom iMediaEthics hired for research on this story, emailed us the dimensions of the Nagra III: 12.5″ x 8.7″ x 4.3″ (by comparison, an iPad is about 9.5” X 7.5”X .5”). Perhaps the Nagra III is not too big to hide. Sandlin wrote:

“The recording quality is, in my opinion, definitely possible with the Nagra III and a good microphone, even hidden. But the sibilance (ssss sounds) indicate the woman was quite close to the microphone. There is also a certain bassy sound called ‘proximity effect’ that is audible when the microphone is very near the subject. It would have to have been quite close to her, because the proximity effect is notable in the recording. You can faintly hear crickets, doors slamming, voices, and other noises the background and when she calls her parents you can hear some jostling, so while it’s possible the microphone and recorder were hidden, they would have to have been very close by, within a few feet, not hidden in a ceiling or wall, and not too far from the woman. Perhaps in a bag on a table or built into a desk? Also, when she moves to get the telephone, you can hear that she is farther away from the microphone and then brings the phone closer.”

Andy Lanset, director of archives for New York Public Radio, wrote:

“There also doesn’t seem to be any ‘mic noise’ the kind of handling noise that comes from someone holding or wearing a mic, particularly a sensitive one. … So if it was pinned to her, it had to be pretty secure. Could it have been secured in a flower vase in front of her? Again, she’s on-mic consistently. There doesn’t seem to be any bobbing and weaving on her part and this type of person doesn’t strike me as catatonic or wooden.”

— Lanset’s colleague, Marcos Sueiro Bal, a New York Public Radio senior archivist, wrote:

“I agree with Andy — to my ears the mic sounds pretty close to Marcy’s voice, so I cannot see how she could not be aware of its presence (then again, she says she is high); I guess it could be hidden in a flower pot or something (I assume this was done at Steve [Young’s] house), but it seems unlikely, although not impossible.”

Marcy defended her claim (more thoroughly in the document linked below) by pointing out that if she’d given permission for taping the interview and phone call with her mom, that Young would have likely “rigged up” the phone to capture her mother’s voice as well as Marcy’s. “That was his stock and trade,” she said. “I certainly didn’t [give permission], he just asked if I wanted to call my parents and I said could I, because you know it costs them money I didn’t want them to have to pay for a phone call.”


See Document: iMediaEthics questions Marcy about her claim that Young secretly recorded her in 1967


For Walden’s part, the news director supervising Young in 1967, he can’t understand why Porter went back to Marcy. “I would not have attempted to unless I had flat-out permission from her going in, and this was long after the fact, obviously,” he said. “I would not have gone back to try to reopen old wounds. The last thing that I want to do at this point in my life is cause anybody grief, least of all Marcy. She went through enough the first time around. She shouldn’t be required to go through it again, as far as I’m concerned.”

iMediaEthics asked Walden, who used to work with approximately 30 news employees at WNEW: If you had a reporter who lied to another reporter, as Porter did, what would you have done about it? Cunningham characterized it just as something “stupid.”

“I’d fire him,” Walden said without hesitation. “There was no second chance for lying in any circumstance, any professional circumstance. You got fired. I mean no second chances.”

Marcy’s privacy woes do not stop with the documentary.

What’s Marcy going to do now?

“I’m going to have to enforce that contract [with Porter and Loewenthal] to a certain extent so that they respect me,” she said. “I think that’s what I have to do. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to talk to a lawyer maybe, I don’t know, but it’s just that I have to enforce that contract to a certain extent because otherwise they’re just going to keep on being crazy.”

Porter excitedly told iMediaEthics that he planned to submit the documentary to festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. According to him, Marcy has already gone global. “We discovered that there is a Swedish rock group that did a song about Marcy… I just heard it a few weeks ago,” he said, adding that one can “see how useful it would be for a documentary when you listen to it.”

iMediaEthics could not find a Swedish band with a Marcy song. But at least five U.K. and U.S. bands we found have “sampled” Marcy’s voice, incorporating parts of the WNEW recording on electronic music tracks available on the Web or on CD.

iMediaEthics asked audio specialist Sandlin for research assistance in tracking how far Marcy’s voice has spread. “We’re talking here about sampling, which is taking a snippet of one recording and mixing that into a new work, which usually includes some original content,” he said. “Most electronic music and nearly all hip-hop today is based on samples.”

Here are CDs and the groups Sandlin found that use Marcy’s voice (most appear on YouTube):

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – “A Daisy Chain 4 Satan,” and “The International Sin Set

Meat Beat Manifesto – “Acid Again

The Orb – “A Huge Ever Growing Brain (Orbital Dance Mix)

DJ Voodoo & Liquid Method – “Everybody Thinks I’m High (and I am)

Here are two Albums as they appear on YouTube:

Sandlin cautioned that there is even more out on the Internet and in CDs than the above tracks and albums. “There are many remixes of these tracks (authorized and unauthorized by the bands) that will also contain her voice,” he said.

The most recent track iMediaEthics found was by the U.K. band Cause 4 Concern. Their track, “Never Acid Again,” was released Dec 8, 2008. These are Marcy’s words they sampled from the WNEW recording.

0:10  “Right now I’m scared. I’m really scared.” “Are You really happy?” “I’m happier than I’ve ever been… I’m not happy… I’m not happy at all really…” “Do you know a lot about drugs.” “Oh, I live for drugs. It’s great. Just lately I freaked out on acid.”

0:40   (samples repeat)

1:04  “Never acid again” (repeats many times)

(same samples repeat again later in song)

When iMediaEthic informed Marcy about these tracks and exploitation of her voice, she said, “I am certainly not happy about all this. I would never be involved with such [a thing].”

A blogger, Bill G, at, wrote in a blog post that groups who are sampling Marcy’s voice and selling CDs “should probably send [her] some money.”

While recognizing the damage done to Marcy’s privacy, iMediaEthics acknowledges our own role, in publishing this report. That’s why we asked her to read it before publication, to give her a full opportunity to respond. We only do this for sensitive circumstances, to prevent further harm to a source. We feel this courtesy is 45 years late.

Marcy is known as a community volunteer according to members of the Flint Library staff.  Working with neighbors and school children, she created a free community garden. She taught canning with Flint librarian Juliet Minard and taught other free courses in jewelry-making and gardening. This is how she wants to be known.

“I never lied to my parents. I did work at Macy’s for a month or two [in 1967]. I worked in the sportswear department.”  We called Macy’s to fact check. Jim Sluzewski, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & External Affairs, didn’t find Marcy but advised employee records from so long ago are incomplete.

We will update Marcy’s story as events warrant. We are giving Marcy the last word.

“It’s a nightmare.”

“I now know that neither one of them [Porter or Lowenthal] had any intention to do any thing decent. I am very depressed about it. I feel I don’t deserve it. [But] I still believe there are still good people in the world.”

Editor’s Note:  iMediaEthics contacted Marjory Rayner, current Flint Journal editor, to ask why there was no correction on the Journal‘s Jan. 16/17 report containing Porter’s lies.  After being interviewed by iMediaEthics, Rayner responded by posting comments to each of the five article under her own name. She wrote to iMediaEthics: “We have added a comment [in the comments sections under the articles] to all of our coverage of ‘Marcy’ so that anyone who happens across these articles from two years ago can see the complete story.”  When pressed, Rayner would not answer why only headlines to all five articles with links were added to the comments sections for each of the five reports about Porter instead of appending a correction in the Jan. 16/17 report that still contains, uncorrected, Porters lies about Marcy. The NewsBank version of the Jan. 16/17 article has Porter’s uncorrected lies as well.

UPDATE 12/20/2012 5:04 PM EST: Yesterday the CJR masthead listed Brent Cunningham as managing editor/print. Today we noticed CJR has updated its masthead to name him as deputy editor.

UPDATE 11/1/2013, 8:52AM EST:  Marcy filed a libel and invasion of privacy lawsuit  against Porter, Columbia Journalism Review and Porter’s filmmaker partner following iMediaEthics’s above 2012 investigation. The complaint (redacted to protect Marcy) includes over 40 years of Porter talking about feeling sorry for his wrong actions that hurt Marcy, all the while repeating false claims and private information about her in the media and to students.

Research contributions by Desiree Yael Vester and Charles Sandlin


  • NEW Columbia Journalism Review Sued for Libel, Invasion of Privacy by Former Newsweek Teen Source  Read here. Oct 31, 2013
  • Oct 31, 2013 Complaint, The U.S. District Court of The Southern District of New York. Maxim H. Waldbaum, a partner at New York City law firm Eaton & Van Winkle   for his client, Marcy, against Porter, the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review and Porter’s filmmaker colleague, Daniel Loewenthal.  The complaint says the three defendants “collaborated to defame Plaintiff and invade her privacy on numerous occasions causing her harm and damage to her reputation.”

Submit a tip / Report a problem

Columbia Journalism Review Reporter Bruce Porter Lying, Exploiting a Source? What’s happening at CJR?

Share this article:

2 Responses

  1. neil lewis says:

    Beside the horrible tone-deafness of Porter et al, it is an intriguing issue left unnoted: When he first interviewed "Marcy" by his own account, he simply met her in a village coffee shop and took down her account. there seemed to be no effort to confirm any of what she told him. He said he got in contact with her thru Abby Hoffman who was, I believe, was a notorious or celebrated prankster. He seemed to have done little to find out if she was anything like she said she was.

    Anyone see the "60 minutes" correction this week? It sounds like sop at Newsweek at the time was to have the young Porter simply bring in an uncorroborated memo.

    Neil Lewis

  2. Rhonda says:

    Many thanks for your comment Neil. You make excellent points and comparisons. From Porter's account we learn that editors had in mind a narrative and a specific type of "hippie girl gone wrong" they wanted him to find on a tight deadline. You are right the author of "Steal this Book" was the source to supply the "hippie chick" who would get paid.

    Once Porter found her and she appeared to be a fit, her story was too good to check–apparently no attempts to verify with police, her parents, relatives or local friends.

    Rhonda R. Shearer, iMediaEthics

Comments Terms and Conditions

  • We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which harass, libel, use coarse language and profanity.
  • We moderate comments especially when there is conflict or negativity among commenters.
  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *