Connecticut SPJ condemns Paresh Jha’s fabrications, reconsiders his awards
The Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has issued a statement condemning the serial fabrications of Paresh Jha and saying it has "sought information from Hearst about verification of sources and reporting" in two Jha articles that recently won awards from the SPJ.
"The CTSPJ Board of Directors and officers are considering whether any action related to these awards should be taken," reads the statement from Cindy Simoneau, current president of the CTSPJ and Jodie Mozdzer, incoming president. (The full statement is reproduced below.)
The New Canaan News revealed late last week that it had found 25 stories that included fabricated sources and quotes, and that Jha confessed to making things up in his stories. Since issuing the statement about Jha, the paper and Heart's leadership in Connecticut have declined to provide additional details. In the meantime, other examples of fabrication have emerged.
It was just a month ago that Jha brought home two awards for his writing and reporting at the Connecticut SPJ's 2011 Excellence in Journalism awards. He won a first place and third place award for two articles. The New Canaan News trumpeted the awards in a story.
There's strong evidence to suggest Jha's first place winning story contained at least some fabricated material. That story, about underage drinking, has already been removed from the website. The paper has been scrubbing all of Jha's fabricated pieces from its website, which means his winning piece was removed as a result of the internal investigation. (Update: Hearst confirmed to the CTSPJ board that the first place piece included fabrications. The company said his third place entry has checked out.)
As of now, Jha's third place story is still online and the Darien Times, which competes with a Hearst paper in that area, reports that it appears to check out.
"The Twain story remains online, and checks online of names of sources proved to exist," said the paper in a report about Jha's fabrications.
The story also includes comments from Luther Turmelle, a regional director for SPJ.
“I think we are all concerned there’s an outside possibility the articles he won awards for are fabricated,” he told the Times.
He also commented on the fact that Hearst has not provided a list of fabricated articles in order to help the local SPJ chapter determine if the winning pieces were affected.
Turmelle said that while getting an official list of fabricated stories from Hearst would make the Society of Professional Journalists’ job easier, the group has no power to require the company to provide that.
It shouldn't require an element of coercion for Hearst to share information that serves the interest of its readers and the journalism community as a whole.
Without a full accounting of Jha's fabrications, readers of the New Canaan News will never know what was real and what wasn't. And the SPJ won't have the information it needs to ensure the award(s) go to deserving journalists.
The paper's failure to be transparent with its community only increases the damage done by Jha.
Here's the full statement from SPJ:
The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists has become aware Paresh Jha of the New Canaan News has been dismissed by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers “after some of his stories were found to contain fabricated quotations and sources.”
As an organization, CT SPJ condemns all acts of fabrication, plagiarism and other unethical practices. And, applauds all media organization that take swift action to no longer employ individuals engaging in such methods.
Jha was a recent recipient of two, 2011 Journalism Excellence Awards. CTSPJ has sought information from Hearst about verification of sources and reporting included in these two, specific award-winning packages.
The CTSPJ Board of Directors and officers are considering whether any action related to these awards should be taken.
Correction: This article originally and incorrectly stated that Hearst Newspapers had not responded to the CTSPJ board’s questions regarding Jha’s work. Hearst responded to the board’s query “within a half hour” of it being sent, according to SPJ president Cindy Simoneau.