Our latest episode of “Newspaper Columnists Do The Darndest Things” takes us to the Norwich Bulletin in Norwich, Connecticut. Writers have been prone to make mistakes from time to time, it’s part of the business. We all have posted things that contain misspellings, factual errors, editorial oversights, and things that need to be corrected later. There’s only a few trespasses that are so great they demand for an immediate firing by an outlet.
Making up fake quotes from a coach and inserting them into a story is certainly one of them.
As of this time, the Norwich Bulletin hasn’t identified which reporter and/or coach is the subject of this story, but they did post an editorial item last week explaining the situation. They also said the reporter in question was already terminated. Here’s the note from the editor as it appeared in the paper:
Last week, a local high school coach notified The Bulletin that quotes attributed to him in a game story that appeared in our paper and website were not his. He said that he had never spoken to the sports reporter. The reporter has admitted that he fabricated the quotes, and he is no longer employed at The Bulletin.
Our readers need to know that what we present in our pages and online is completely accurate and fair, and has been thoroughly reviewed by our reporters and editors. GateHouse Media, the parent company of The Bulletin, has a clear ethics policy that has been in place for years and on which all staff members are trained. As a result of this incident, we will be reviewing our quality assurance procedures.
Still, there are times when we fall short. When that happens, we need to own it, correct it and alert readers as fast as possible. And, in rare circumstances, such as last week, go even further.
I’m reminded of the wise words of noted philosopher Ron White – you can’t fix stupid.
This is a plan that was failed from the beginning. Did this person really think that the coach wouldn’t notice that quotes he didn’t give to a reporter he hasn’t met suddenly appeared in the local paper?
Moreover, is it really that hard to get quotes from a high school coach in Norwich, Connecticut? Were all the spots at the postgame press conference taken? Is there a Bill Belichick type coach roaming the local high school scene that refuses to give information to the press?
Here’s a lesson to aspiring sportswriters everywhere, when it comes down to making up quotes or doing the actual work to call someone to get those quotes, it’s always a safer bet to choose the latter.