Letter from the editor: Following fabricated interview, building trust in community essential

Dear readers and University of Oregon community members,

It has come to the attention of the Emerald’s newsroom management that Thursday’s cover story (Eugene’s Sweet Potato Pie and Greater Goods lead the charge to carry Fair Trade clothing) had a falsified source. The story began with a fictional account of two University of Oregon students combing through their closets. The author went on to falsely quote a source whom she had not interviewed.

The newsroom’s management was unaware of the error until the source who was falsely attributed contacted myself asking that her name be removed form the article. We immediately started an investigation into the situation and the story was pulled from our website on Thursday mid-day.

After following up with the source we contacted the reporter responsible for the incident. The reporter came to the Emerald office around 2 p.m. to leave a note for their editor confessing to have fabricated the interview.

It would be easy to point blame at any of the editors involved in the production of this story, unfortunately it’s not that easy. One of the basic agreements between an editor and a reporter is that you are seeking the truth and reporting it. At a fundamental level, this situation was a breach of trust in an isolated incident and does not reflect the hard work and talent demonstrated by our staff. The author is no longer employed by the Emerald and hopefully understands the gravity of the mistake.

We discussed the situation with our staff, added a few steps to the process to ensure this won’t happen again and we have faith that we will be able to prevent future incidents. With that said, we do believe there is some work to be done to regain the trust of our readers and community.

This was unacceptable for any publication, student or professional. We apologize to our readers and the source who was falsely represented in the story.  Our news editors are verifying the legitimacy of the sourcing in the rest of the story and auditing the reporter’s previous work in order to ensure its validity.

We regret the error and will strive to continue serving our community with the highest regard for ethics and professionalism as a institution recognizing the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics. Unfortunately, this is a problem across not just college media, but the sphere of professional journalism as well.  The Emerald will take measures to prevent this mistake from happening in the future through even more rigorous quote and fact checking systems.

Thank you for your continued support. If you have any questions, concerns or comments, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

We hope to represent the values of our community in our future actions.

– Sam Stites, editor in chief

[email protected] — (541) 346-5511 ext. 346 — EMU Suite 300

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Sam Stites

Sam Stites