Tribune newsroom takes over TribLocal work done by Journatic

In a memo sent Sunday afternoon, Chicago Tribune Editor and Senior Vice President Gerould Kern told staff that the paper would once again be directly responsible for its suburban TribLocal content. In addition, “all Journatic news content is gone from TribLocal sites,” Kern clarified in an email forwarded to me. This change follows the Tribune’s decision, announced Friday, to suspend work with Journatic, which had taken over TribLocal on behalf of the company about three months ago.

At the time, Kern told the Tribune:

“We’ve made an investment in this company because we believe that it is a more effective way of providing hyperlocal news, and we think we can do more of it in this way.”

The move to suspend work with Journatic was precipitated by a plagiarized story revealed Friday and ongoing revelations about false bylines published in the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, featured on “This American Life” two weeks ago.

Kern’s memo follows.

Colleagues:

The Chicago Tribune newsroom has assumed responsibility for all content appearing in TribLocal in print and online for the foreseeable future. All Journatic content has been eliminated.

Newsroom leadership met on Saturday to plan the transition effective immediately. This action followed our decision on Friday night to suspend the use of Journatic content indefinitely because of serious ethical breaches. Journatic is a third-party supplier of hyper-local content to TribLocal, a publication of the Chicago Tribune Media Group. Tribune Company is an investor in Journatic.

We initiated the ethics investigation of Journatic after it was disclosed that this supplier used alias bylines on a some stories that resided on TribLocal websites. Those stories were removed immediately. During the investigation, we learned Friday that another Journatic story supplied to TribLocal contained plagiarized and fabricated quotes. This precipitated Friday night’s decision to suspend use of Journatic content indefinitely.

I want you to know that we are acting swiftly on these issues as we investigate them. We are not waiting. The suspension and the transfer of responsibility for TribLocal content to the newsroom are two major responses.

Journatic’s use of false bylines and plagiarized and fabricated quotes in some hyper-local content supplied to TribLocal is unethical and inexcusable. These are serious breaches of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial ethics code and will not be tolerated.

TribLocal is a sister hyper-local news operation run by the Targeted Media division of the Chicago Tribune Media Group. Earlier this year, TribLocal began outsourcing hyper-local content to Journatic at about the same time the company became an investor. TribLocal content appears on the Chicago Tribune’s website and its print editions are distributed with the newspaper.

We are working expeditiously to resolve these issues and move forward.

Gerry

Three months ago, when the Tribune outsourced TribLocal to Journatic, it laid off about 20 journalists and reassigned another dozen who had been working on the suburban newspapers and websites. It’s unclear how the current newsroom will staff the TribLocal work.

When asked about a timeline for the suspension or for reviewing it, Kern responded, “It’s open-ended.”

In a note to readers Monday, Kern said, “We regret these painful breakdowns and vow to correct them so we may maintain our trust with you. … We are grateful for your loyalty to the Chicago Tribune.

Related: How Chicago Tribune discovered plagiarized Journatic story;  Journatic’s editorial head resigns | Journatic claims it was about to fire editorial head who resigned | Journatic memo to staff, ‘DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR NAME’ | Journatic published hundreds of stories under fake bylines on Houston Chronicle websites

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