Is there anything more fun to watch than when media outlets themselves become the focus of scandalous news stories? Such is the case down in Fairfield County, where a now-fired reporter at the New Canaan News was found to have fabricated sources and quotes in at least 25 articles over the last 18 months.
Why do I find it such a joy to watch news outfits squirm under the scrutiny of their peers? Consider this: whenever government officials find themselves in the midst of a scandal, they bob and weave. They issue written statements, refuse to answer questions and refer reporters back to the statement. Often, they release the news late on a Friday afternoon while people are at happy hour and so won’t bother to watch the news later that night or read the Saturday papers with a hangover the next morning.
So what did officials at The New Canaan News do when they learned of the journalistic malpractice perpetrated by Paresh Jha? They excecuted a classic Friday news dump, issuing an online statement at 5:30 p.m. on June 22. Wait, it gets even better.
When the Poynter Institute tried to interview editors in Hearst’s Fairfield chain of weeklies, they stonewalled the reporter, refusing to answer questions and referring him back to the company’s statement.
Read the transcript of Poynter reporter Craig Silverman’s conversation with NCN editor Ashley Varese. She refers every question to the company statement. When Silverman informs her that he’s spotted yet another fabricated story that is still online and asks whom he should contact, Varese replies:
I would contact, um… Hmmm… No, actually just stick to the statement. That’s really all I can tell ya.
According to his LinkedIn page, Jha is a former copy editor at UConn’s Daily Campus. Ironically, he won two awards in May from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists. As of this writing, the announcement is still up on the NCN website. Get a load of Jha’s quote in the story:
I’m obviously very grateful that the Connecticut SPJ believed in these stories. More than anything else, the awards represent the hard work the entire staff of the New Canaan News puts into every article we run.
Yah, writing fiction is hard work. Almost as hard as writing the truth.