The Houston Chronicle has retracted eight stories from veteran reporter Mike Ward after it was found he likely fabricated hundreds of quotes. After suspicions, The Chronicle says they did a review of 744 stories dating back to 2014. Of 275 individuals quoted, 122 could be found making up only 72 of the stories. The Chronicle used property records, social media, and other sources to try to verify Ward’s sources. They also spot checked other reporters and found almost all sources could be found.
- Is fabricating quotes from ‘regular individuals’ a widespread problem?
- Do local papers lack the resources to employ safeguards against fake sources?
- Do you trust you major local news publications?
On 31 July, the Houston Chronicle published a front-page story with a provocative headline. “‘We’ve moved on’: political anger has eased after Harvey,” he said, adding: “Experts believe that disaster response is unlikely to be a factor in November.”
It was a significant story by veteran reporter and Austin bureau chief Mike Ward. It asserted that Houston residents initially fed up with the uneven government response to Hurricane Harvey actually weren’t going to blame politicians after all. The story began with West Houston resident Betsy Scheer, whose anger had faded. She was going to vote Republican.
“My friends are now usually the same,” she was quoted as saying to Ward.
But in the weeks following the story, questions about the source were raised in Ward’s story. Nobody could find Betsy Scheer. And nobody could find three others quoted in the story ‘” Tran Ng, Martina Racelli and Jack Nito.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Houston Chronicle Editor update