Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Fake Reporter Teen Athletes for Pictures, Inter

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(Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, screenshot)

Someone was impersonating a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter, the Associated Press reported.  The phony reporter is “calling high school female athletes at home and asking to take their pictures and interview them.”

But, yesterday, a man was charged related to the phone calls, according to the Journal Times.

The Journal Sentinel‘s Mark Stewart explained to the AP that the newspaper’s practice calls for newspaper staff to “work with athletic directors and coaches, and wouldn’t contact athletes directly,” so the phone calls are a “red flag.”  Milwaukee Mag reported the man in question is going by the name Mike Clark.

Wisconsin State Journal’s Rob Hernandez heard one of the fake reporter’s calls because his daughter is on her high school’s golf team, according to Channel 3000.  He is quoted as saying:

“My daughter took a phone call at home…I was sitting on the couch next to her. I heard it was the Journal Sentinel. I asked her to ask who it was, and nine times out of 10, I recognize the name. I didn’t recognize the name this time…

“Once the gentleman started asking about personal information, I kind of stepped in, took the phone and asked who it was again…He told me it was none of my business and he hung up.”

Shorewood Patch published an email from the Journal Sentinel’s Stewart about the phony reporter. That email reads:

“There is an individual who is impersonating a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports reporter and he has been trying to set up interviews and photo shoots with high school athletes. The name he is using is Mike Clark or Mark Clark. This person DOES NOT work for us and his actions have been shady, to say the least. … Your athletes should be leery of any reporter who contacts them directly, tries to set up interviews off school grounds or asks for contact information about teammates. If the reporter is legitimate, he or she will speak with the coach first and ask the coach to help arrange the interviews, which almost always take place on school grounds or at the site of a competition.”

The Journal Sentinel’s own report on Nov. 14 about the person noted the Cedarburg Police Chief Thomas Frank said “we believe we might know who this individual is.”

iMediaEthics wrote in 2010 when a Canadian activist posed as a freelancer for the Seattle Times. We’ve also previously questioned journalists interviewing minors.  In a June commentary, iMediaEthics questioned the New York Daily News’ June 24 article that included interviews with 13-year-olds.  And in 2008, iMediaEthics wrote about the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor who questionably contacted teenagers via Facebook for what the Times’ public editor at the time Clark Hoyt described as “an unflattering front-page profile of Cindy McCain.”

iMediaEthics has written to Stewart at the Journal Sentinel asking how long the person has been posing as one of its staff, if Hernandez is the first to have reported the calls to the newspaper, for confirmation that the Shorewood Patch email is from him, how the newspaper has handled this situation, and more.  We’ve also asked Hernandez for more information about the call to his daughter, including the name of the person, when he called, and if he’s made any repeat calls. We’ll update with any response.

UPDATE: 11/18/2012 11:10 AM EST: Added info about previous stories.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Fake Reporter Contacting Teen Athletes for Pictures

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