Thursday, August 18, 2005

McClatchy editor made false claim

To the growing list of journalists who tell readers things that turn out to be false add Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at Raleigh’s News & Observer, a McClatchy paper.

When readers first complained about the N&O’s failure to report the Air America loan scandal, something the N&O finally did almost two weeks after other papers reported it, Sill told readers:

"We've checked our news services in recent days and do not find this story"

Readers immediately told Sill that newspapers, including the New York Post and New York Daily News, were reporting the story. Why couldn’t Sill find such reports and use them?

Sill then acknowledged she had known other newspapers were reporting the Air America story. But she claimed she still couldn’t publish at the time because nothing was “available to The N&O for publication.” Sill told readers in a blog comment thread:

"(I)n checking our many news services I did not find a story available to The N&O for publication."

Sill’s claim was promptly contradicted by editors of major newspapers.

“(R)egardless of any formal contract we (newspapers) have with one another, we can take stories from each other,” one editor explained. “We do it all the time. You can’t lift the whole story; and you’re supposed to give credit. But a few paragraphs? No problem. You can even take from a couple of different newspapers and blend.”

Another editor added:

“If she’s really telling you something different … you’re getting stiffed.”

Now there’s more evidence directly contradicting Sill. It comes from the N&O itself.

A LexisNexis search by a reader and posted at Sill’s blog reveals the N&O often uses other newspapers, including the NY Post and NY Daily News, as news sources.

The N&O used the Daily News as recently as Aug. 14, just one day before Sill made the “did not find a story available to The N&O” claim.

From the LexisNexis search:

The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), August 14, 2005 Sunday, Final Edition, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. G6, New Stones song lashes out at Bush, Helen Kennedy, New York Daily News (Bold added)

The search revealed many other recent instances of the N&O’s use of the NY Post and NY News as news sources. (To view LN search results scroll to about the 65th comment on this post by Sill. If you’re new to this story, Sill’s post and the entire thread are worth reading.)

Another example is from a Feb 8, 2005 story (Business section, pg. D4). It includes this:

OshKosh B'Gosh, the children's clothing maker and retailer known for its denim overalls, saw its stock soar 20 percent Monday after a report that the company has put itself up for sale.

The Wisconsin-based company has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to find a buyer, the New York Post reported (Bold added)

So the editor who insisted that “regardless of any formal contract we (newspapers) have with one another, we can take stories from each other” was telling the truth.

And the other editors who said essentially the same thing, they were telling the truth.

And the LexisNexis search results revealing the N&O’s frequent use of the Post and Daily News as news sources tells a truth, also.

And readers who told Sill she could use some of what papers like the Post and Daily News were reporting, they were telling the truth.

Then we have Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at Raleigh’s News & Observer, a McClatchy paper.

That's really sad, isn’t it?
Previous posts:

Editors dispute N&O editor's claim
From Editor Sill's blog
Air America: Raleigh's N&O sort of reports
An editor's "One standard for thee; another for me"
Thank you and a bit about the N&O editor
Contact info for McClatchy papers
Air America and N&O editor
Help an editor find the Air America story


Anonymous said...

Excellent summary.

I know we're just a small town, but this sort of thing happens over and over and over.

You just caught this one.


Anonymous said...


At this stage, it is clear she will not acknowledge that she could have printed a modified NY Post story or a NY Daily News story verbatim on the subject. Or for that matter she won't answer or address any of these concerns whatsoever.

The point's been made, the LexisNexis data there for anyone who wants to read it to do so, and that's pretty much that.

The real question will be how much coverage will they do later. This story is just starting and it will come up again and again.

-J. Stuart

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected, she tried to defend her position in a post just now.

I responded in kind.

Anonymous said...

As I noted on the Sill blog, I'm pretty much at an end with this issue. I've done as much as I could and frankly there comes a point where you find yourself repeating yourself over and over. I read back over my last few posts there and found I was just saying the same thing again and again and that ultimately, I don't think it will do much of any good to get annoyingly repetitive.

So that's it for me, at least on this subject.

-J. Stuart

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I'm glad you're blogging this. I think the corrective power of blogs to overwhelm the self appointed media gatekeepers and let information come freely through is the best story of the last 25 years, and it's exciting to watch it happen.
Richard Mitchell (author of Graves of Academe and other great books) said, "You know the right definition of a free press? It's the right of everyone to have a printing press in the basement."

Thanks to bloggers like you, we're going to have a genuine free press once more.