The Houston Chronicle completed its review of former reporter Mike Ward’s work. In it, the newspaper revealed that it couldn’t find 122 of 275 named sources in 744 articles with Ward’s by-line published from 2014 to Aug. 2018. It could verify 103 sources of the 275.
“The Chronicle will retract eight stories that depended heavily on characters who can’t be found and quotes that cannot be verified,” the newspaper said in its own story on the review. “It will correct other stories that included sources that can’t be verified but whose premise was not reliant on those sources.” The Chronicle said its review included checking databases for property owners, voter registrations, licenses, phone numbers, social media and listed affiliations.
The Chronicle‘s executive editor Nancy Barnes told iMediaEthics she couldn’t comment about the matter but said when asked if the newspaper would list all retracted stories that “There is an editors note that lists the stories and it all will appear in print tomorrow.” iMediaEthics has sent a message to Ward via Twitter seeking his response to the review.
Last month, as iMediaEthics reported, Ward resigned after the newspaper’s editors confronted him with questions about his sources; he stood by his reporting.
This case may remind readers of iMediaEthics’ investigation of former New York crime reporter Kevin Deutsch, who likewise stood by his reporting. The New York Times issued an editor’s note after it couldn’t locate two of Deutsch’s sources. iMediaEthics conducted our own review and couldn’t verify more than a dozen of his sources; Newsday reviewed his work as a staff reporter for the Long Island newspaper and couldn’t locate 109 sources.
The Chronicle reported today on the review, noting that Ward stands by his reporting and detailing its research:
“The review included 744 stories, from early August 2018 back to January 2014, when he was hired after a long career at the Austin American-Statesman. A team of three pulled out the names of 275 individuals who were presented as ordinary Texans and made every effort to find them. Of the 275 people quoted, 122, or 44 percent, could not be found. Those 122 people appeared in 72 stories.
“It’s impossible to prove that these people do not exist, only that with extensive research and digging, the team could not find them. And in this age of online records, including property ownership and court filings, almost everyone can be found quickly.”
The Chronicle noted it did random checks of other stories by its reporters and another newspaper and had no difficulty finding almost all of those sources quickly. The Chronicle‘s story quoted its executive editor Barnes saying, “This investigation points to an egregious breach of that trust that is an offense to readers and journalists alike. We apologize to our readers, and to the Houston community.”
This post is being updated as it is a breaking news story.