Author’s former source sues CJR, among others

iMediaEthics

A woman interviewed by former Columbia professor Bruce Porter has sued him, the Columbia Journalism Review and a documentary filmmaker, Rhonda Roland Shearer reports.

Porter first wrote about the woman for Newsweek in 1967 and violated his promise to protect her identity. He’s since discussed the ethical lapse in class, written about it and participated in a documentary about his attempt to find her and apologize.

In her complaint, the woman contends that a story Porter wrote for CJR about her restates “much of the defamatory material contained in the Newsweek Article” and that and another article reveal more information, including her name and her hometown of Flint, Mich. The complaint also states that Porter arranged coverage in the Flint Journal about his search and lied to a reporter there about her whereabouts.

Acting CJR Editor-in-Chief Brent Cunningham declined to comment on the suit: “We’ve said all we have to say about this story,” he told Poynter in an email. A 2012 story by Porter about the woman links to an editor’s note in which he says she was paid $500 to participate in the documentary and that his transaction with the Flint Journal reporter “will always stay with me as an incomprehensible lapse in judgment, albeit one with good intentions.”

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