September 19, 2005

Faux or fact: "I point my finger in your general direction"

From the Chicago Tribune, "Hoax!":

"...eight days of reporting revealed elaborate fabrications and intricate lies. There is no soldier named Dan Kennings. The charming girl people came to know as Kodee Kennings is someone else entirely, a child from an out-of-state family led to believe that she was playing a part in a documentary about a soldier.

...the woman at the center of the hoax spun a remarkable wartime tale so compelling it grabbed the hearts of young journalists, university faculty members and readers, leaving them blind to the possibility it could be a ruse.

The reasons behind the lies remain unclear. There appears to have been no monetary motive, but the scope of the deception is staggering."

So who's to blame? Isn't that the question we all want to have answered and remedied, for every issue?

The blame game is becoming very tiresome for me as a reporter, but I guess a twisted trait found in most people dictates that the finger be pointed somewhere. Not that it ever really helps.

But aside from my philosophical wanderings, I turn to the he Tribune's reporters, who say it is Jaimie Reynolds, "the woman at the center of the hoax". However, the three reporters also introduce another player: a possible accomplice--a student journalist ,Daily Egyptian's reporter, Michael Brenner. The 25-year-old college student doesn't have the best reputation, as this article indicatates (but I'll talk about that in another blog).

Anyway, the sheer length of this article shows the care these reporters took in uncovering this hoax. Also, the fact that three Chicago Tribune reporters took on the story speaks of the story's need for accurate facts and a depth to break the story. Things like this don't come down the pike often; the Tribune wanted to do it right.

How a reporter could get so deep into a story and not know that his sources weren't real is beyond my comprehension. (Knocks on wood)

Reporters, at least the ones I know, walk a fine line between sanity and perfectionism/paranoia, which means facts are checked and rechecked. Though I have been wrong before and I anticipate being wrong again, I know it is part of the job, but it seems like this Brenner guy didn't even take an active role in meeting with the girl -several- times before validating the story. The other article says several phone calls were made between Kodee and the Daily Egyptian staff, but to avoid this maybe some more face to face contacts should have been made.

With big stories, I torture myself over whether I accurately paraphrased and quoted my source. Several calls. Several rewrites. It's tough.

To cover a story that long and not know...perhaps Reynolds shouldn't face the press firing squad alone.


It's just such an odd thing to happen. If Brenner did not know--for real--then I hope it can serve as a lesson to other reporters. This kind of thing can happen to anyone. Scary.

However, his rebuttal sounds a bit too readily available--like a courtroom drama.

"J**** C*****, that is completely not true," Brenner said when he heard about the allegations. "Obviously, she is making that up. I swear I'm telling the truth. The last two years of my life, I don't know what to believe. It's ridiculous. I feel stabbed in the back. They had an elaborate hoax. I'm telling the truth."

Posted by Amanda Cochran at September 19, 2005 9:28 PM | TrackBack
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