Just four days after winning Best All-Around Daily Student Newspaper and seven other awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 Mark of Excellence Awards, The University of Alabama student newspaper, The Crimson White, announced freshman reporter Madison Roberts fabricated sources in several news stories dating back to Jan. 10 of this year.
According to The CW, Roberts quoted nearly 30 students and one professor – none of whom could be confirmed as UA students or professors. After fact-checking Roberts’ stories, it was determined she created names, years and majors for her sources.
Roberts has since been dismissed from the paper, saying in an e-mail:
“I made a mistake. I own up to that and am accepting the consequences, but I did not mean to hurt anyone. I knew it could affect the CW as a whole, and I apologize to those I hurt.”
While this is certainly a dark day for The Crimson White…
(as editor-in-chief Will Tucker says, “It is hard to tell how long or to what depth this one rogue reporter’s actions will tarnish our image, our credibility and our integrity. But The Crimson White will carry on.”)
…they are certainly not alone.
While there have been high profile instances of fabrication, most notably Jason Blair and Janet Cooke, 2012 saw an unprecedented level of negativity that – as Craig Silverman of Poynter states – has been a “cavalcade of plagiarism, fabrication and unethical recycling (that) damaged several careers and publications.”
The Summer of Sin, as he labels it, featured “significant transgressions sometimes repeated with shocking frequency.” While he offers up three solutions to the problem (as well as an article on how to handle plagiarism and fabrication), Silverman is clearly not happy with what he has been seeing.
Statements such as, “2012 will go down as one of the worst summers for plagiarism, fabrication and ethical misdeeds in recent journalistic history,” aren’t hiding much in the way of subtlety.
For their part, The Crimson White immediately owned up to their mistake and are taking the necessary steps in order to correct it.
One such step could have corrected the problem before it began. Because a mistake of this magnitude reflects poorly on everyone – past and present – who have worked for The Crimson White.