It has been more than nine months since Newsweek said it started a review of three freelance articles that crime reporter Kevin Deutsch wrote for the news magazine. So where is the review? With 2017 wrapping up, iMediaEthics contacted Newsweek once again to find out the status of its review, launched after questions about Deutsch’s sources.
Newsweek spokesperson Mark Lappin told iMediaEthics the review is still “proceeding.”
Back on July 26, Newsweek told iMediaEthics the review was “in the final stages.” Then, in early August, Newsweek told iMediaEthics the review was “about a week out,” but by the end of the month, spokesperson Mark Lappin said, “A few internal changes mean that this has been delayed but as soon as we have an update (which I expect soon), I will let you know.” It has been several months, but still no review or no apparent note on the Newsweek site.
So what gives? Will Newsweek release the review it promised? Or did Newsweek end its investigation for some reason? iMediaEthics has asked Newsweek numerous times over the past months, including this week, about the status of the review.
From 2014 to 2015, Newsweek published three stories by Deutsch. While there are only three articles to review, the task of reviewing at least one of Deutsch’s pieces would not be easy; his Oct. 2014 article was adapted from his first book, The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips. A note at the bottom of the article warns of the named sources that “most of their names have been changed.” The three articles are:
- Sept. 5, 2014, “For St. Louis Gangs, Ferguson has become a Recruiting Tool”
- Oct. 8, 2014, “The Drug War in Long Island’s Hempstead Ghetto is the Free-Market with Tec-9s,”
- April 28, 2015, Freddie Gray Protests Unite Baltimore Gang Members
In addition, his Sept. 2014 article quotes “St. Louis resident and civil rights activist Delia Bell-Powell.” However, Deutsch also quoted this woman in an article for Newsday, but the newspaper was unable to verify her existence. iMediaEthics also couldn’t find her in public records databases or on social media, and Deutsch provided no evidence to iMediaEthics to back up her existence.
iMediaEthics has contacted Deutsch to ask if he has any updates regarding his end of the review.
As iMediaEthics exhaustively reported this year, Deutsch’s crime reporting for New York news outlets came under suspicion in February when the New York Times revealed it couldn’t verify the identity of two of the named sources in his freelance article for the paper. The Times investigated after Baltimore news outlets sounded the alarm, raising questions about the accuracy of his 2017 book Pill City, which purports to be a non-fiction story about opiate sales by two high school students in Baltimore.
After the Times published its editor’s note about the two missing sources, Newsday and the New York Daily News, both which employed Deutsch as a staff reporter, quickly announced reviews of Deutsch’s work. In the midst of this controversy, Deutsch suddenly quit his teaching gig at Queen’s College mid-semester. On March 2, Newsweek told iMediaEthics it was “currently in the process of reviewing all articles” by Deutsch. Concurrently, iMediaEthics reviewed about 40 of Deutsch’s articles to fact check and determine if we could locate his sources using social media, public records databases and affiliations like schools and employment that Deutsch’s articles included; we found 14 missing sources from 10 of Deutsch’s stories, including his work on the national news story of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. Despite the questions surrounding his work, Deutsch steadfastly stands by his reporting.
In July, Newsday released the results of its review — it couldn’t confirm the existence of 109 of Deutsch’s sources from 77 of the approximately 600 stories he wrote for the newspaper. Then in September, the New York Daily News’s editor-in-chief Arthur Browne told iMediaEthics in a statement saying the newspaper didn’t see any “red flags” in Deutsch’s reporting, but it couldn’t, due to time passed and time required, fully vet every story. That statement read, in part:
“Two factors have ruled out comprehensively documenting every fact and source attributable to Deutsch. First, the passage of five to seven years heightens the difficulty of locating individuals who were identified only by name in the tumult of New York and who were peripheral to the main thrust of a piece – for example, witnesses at breaking news events. Second, many of the stories carried multiple bylines. Five to seven years later, after significant staff turnover, determining what reporter contributed what quote or factual material to each story would be prohibitively time consuming if not impossible.”
Besides Newsweek’s review, the Village Voice is also reviewing Deutsch’s work for the publication. In September, iMediaEthics spotted an editor’s note added to Deutsch’s sole freelance piece for the Village Voice stating that the article was being reviewed for accuracy. We’ve followed up with the Voice yet again to ask about the status of the review. The editor’s note on the Voice’s article still reads:
“Editors’ Note: After The Baltimore Sun and iMediaEthics were unable to locate sources quoted by the author Kevin Deutsch in his previous work, the Voice asked Deutsch to provide his notes for this story. The Voice has yet to receive them, and we are conducting our own review of Deutsch’s reporting.”