Vargas wrote at least 4 stories about immigration for San Francisco Chronicle, not 1

Jose Antonio Vargas recently told a former editor that after he wrote about illegal immigration in 2003, he realized covering the issue was a conflict of interest and he wouldn’t do it any more, but he continued to cover it in the months that followed.

In a conversation with San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein in which Vargas confessed his undocumented status, he also told Bronstein that after writing “a story for us about illegals getting fake drivers’ licenses in the Mission … he decided then that was a serious conflict of interest and [he] wouldn’t cover immigration any more.”

But Vargas had written before then about immigration and he continued to cover immigration for the Chronicle after that story ran. The fake driver’s license story was published in October of 2003. In December, he wrote about Latinos boycotting work, school and retail purchases to protest a driver’s license bill. And in January of 2004, Vargas wrote about how gay couples are not legally able to sponsor their partners for citizenship. Vargas came out himself in high school, deflating his grandfather’s hopes that he’d become a U.S. citizen through marriage.

Before this discovery, I asked Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, whether news organizations who published Vargas’ work should review it, given the potential conflicts of interest. She said:

“I think it’s up to the news organizations to decide whether or not their editing process was rigorous enough in the first place to determine whether there were biases or holes in the reporting or that the story was somehow skewed in either direction, whether he was overcompensating because he knew of his conflict or whether he was pushing a particular point of view because of his circumstances.”

In response to my inquiry, the Chronicle’s Bronstein emailed me to say “Jose only brought up the driver’s license story when we spoke … I don’t know what the Chronicle is doing to check for similar pieces but I’m cc’ing here … the Chronicle’s editor, and … the Managing editor who would determine that.”

Certainly, Vargas could have forgotten the other stories in the seven years since he wrote them. However, this discrepancy — along with others — raises questions about how forthcoming Vargas is being about the relationship between his undocumented status and his journalism.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1406854776 Chris A. Winters

    The pact between a journalist and the public should not be that the journalist maintain absolutely no opinions or anything else that might be construed as bias, but that the journalist should abide by a high standard of professionalism so that regardless of the journalist’s opinions, they are trusted to put them aside. Otherwise, we’re in the position of saying Vargas can’t cover anything Latino because he’s Latino, can’t cover anything gay because he’s gay, can’t cover immigration because he’s an immigrant (that much was never in doubt), can’t cover anything to do with the law because he’s breaking it.

    By the same token, we shouldn’t have Christians cover Christmas (bye-bye Bill O’Reilly), we shouldn’t have Catholics or Italians cover the Vatican (arrivederchi Sylvia Poggioli), and shouldn’t have Jews cover Israel or the Middle East (bye-bye to far too many talented journalists).

    Everyone is biased. It’s a part of being human. Can we drop the fiction that journalists are somehow free from the human condition so we focus instead on the quality of the journalism instead of whatever bias we think we see in the journalist? Sadly, we haven’t reached that point yet.

  • Darryl Gibson

     ”Not only is Mr. Vargas credibility now ‘highly suspect’ as a journalist”
    Newt Gingrich apparently cheated on at least two wives and is apparently seen as a credible candidate for president and you believe someone who hid his immigration status is “highly suspect” as a journalist?
    Right.
    Imagine the suspicion that would arise if a closet chemist were employed to write about chemistry.
    Journalism is always soooooo much better when people who know nothing about the things they write about write about those things.   

  • Darryl Gibson

     Golly, let’s don’t have people who know something about something write about something they might know about. Just imagine if a chemist was to write about chemistry.
    What hidden agendas would be flouted then!

  • http://www.facebook.com/charley.stough Charles Stough

    So if he was standing in Mexico and mailed in his story, all would be cool?  Publishers use material from foreign writers all the time. Problem is that in outfits like Vanity Fair, the stories are about somebody getting diddled at the regatta and so what? I’m glad to read something useful by someone who knows what he’s talking about. You go, NYT. You rock, Jose Vargas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charley.stough Charles Stough

    So if he was standing in Mexico and mailed in his story, all would be cool?  Publishers use material from foreign writers all the time. Problem is that in outfits like Vanity Fair, the stories are about somebody getting diddled at the regatta and so what? I’m glad to read something useful by someone who knows what he’s talking about. You go, NYT. You rock, Jose Vargas.

  • edisciple

    Come on! Is this really something to be suspicious about! Like there’s impartiality in journalism…and, the SF Chron! LOL!

  • Anonymous

    I just gave ICE all the pertinent information needed for their follow up.

  • John Shinn III

    Now the truth is coming out….Not only is Mr. Vargas credibility now “highly suspect” as a journalist…as a person I perceive him to have become a “congential liar” as well…as a result of his living in denial as an “illegal alien” here in the U.S. The bottom line is…Mr. Vargas will be deported…but he could serve time for “perjury” and “forgery” of immigration and other US government documents…Mr. Vargas will be depoirted back to the Philippines and will be banned “for life” from entering the U.S. again….

  • John Shinn III

    Now it’s coming out…that not only is Mr. Vargas’ credibility “highly suspect” as a journalist…as a person he’s a congenital liar, too….he should be deported by the USCIS for committing a serious crime of “perjury” and “forgery.”

  • http://24ahead.com/ 24AheadDotCom

    Pardon me, but this post is hilarious. 100% of MSM articles about the wider topic are biased towards supporting or enabling illegal immig. So, there’s no possibility that Vargas’ articles aren’t biased in that same way to one degree or another.

    The first linked article only hints at the fact that it’s discussing illegal aliens and not “immigrants”. It refers to “immigrant rights” without revealing that the goal was not to ensure that “immigrants” were able to exercise their rights but was to give additional rights to foreign citizens. Compare Vargas’ article to discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=6371