The Village Voice retracted a story by freelancer Rob Sgobbo after it was revealed he made up at least two sources.
After the Voice‘s retraction, Sgobbo was fired from New York Daily News where he reported on education, and all of his posts were removed from the Huffington Post, where he had blogged.
In the editor’s note, Village Voice editor Tony Ortega explained that Sgobbo created two sources — “Tamicka Bourges” and “Matt Fraser.” Sgobbo‘s Village Voice story in question claimed that “Tamicka Bourges” had “amassed a large debt at Berkeley College without obtaining a degree.”
Ortega apologized to Berkeley College and the Government Accountability Office for publishing “this false material.”
As Ortega explained, “We first learned that there might be a problem when Berkeley College denied that one of its spokespersons, Kelly Meisberger, had spoken to Sgobbo. Berkeley later added that it had no record of Bourges as a student. At about the same time, the GAO called to inform us that there was no spokesperson there named “Matt Fraser,” whom the story quoted.”
The Daily News’s Jennifer Mauer told Gawker in a statement that it will not use Sgobbo’s work anymore and that the newspaper is looking through his old stories.
“The Daily News has terminated its relationship with freelancer Rob Sgobbo. He has assured us he never fabricated anything that appeared in the Daily News; however, we are reviewing his stories for any inconsistencies.”
The Huffington Post removed his stories from its website. Business Insider reported that Huffington Post spokesperson Mario Ruiz explained the scrubbing of Sgobbo’s stories as part of policy:
“Our policy is that when a blogger is found to have fabricated a story — either on our site or for another outlet — his or her posts automatically come down. We deleted Rob’s posts today in accordance with that policy.”
See a Google Cache of Sgobbo’s article here.
Mediaite noted that the Village Voice has had two other instances in the past decade where reporters made up sources.
In 2003, Vivian Gornick reportedly admitted she had “used ‘composite’ characters and conversations in some of her pieces for the paper.” In 2006, the Voice retracted Nick Sylvester’s cover story because “people quoted in the story came forward saying they had never spoken to Sylvester.”
Sylvester was suspended for his fabrication.
iMediaethics has written to Rob Sgobbo for comment and will update with any response. We have also written to the Village Voice and will update with any response.
Hat Tip: Regret the Error
UPDATE: 06/16/2011 1:55 PM EST: The New York Daily News told iMediaEthics that it unpublished Sgobbo’s stories. Read that story here.