Hearst serial fabricator Paresh Jha may have made up more stories than Stephen Glass

The New Canaan News recently announced that fired staff writer Paresh Jha repeatedly fabricated sources and quotes in at least 25 stories. The weekly paper also declared that any “stories found to contain fabricated material have been removed from the newspaper’s web site.”

But at least one Jha story still on the site appears to have been completely fabricated. With the final tally still to be determined, the total number of stories that Jha fully or partly fabricated could easily exceed Stephen Glass‘ mark of 27 while at The New Republic.

Meanwhile, the paper isn’t talking.

Attempts to get a comment from New Canaan News editor Ashley Varese and editorial director of Hearst Connecticut Media Group David McCumber have been met with silence. We don’t know if they continue to hunt for examples, or if highly questionable stories, such as the one detailed below, remain on the site because they slipped through their research.

Editors also haven’t said if Jha made up entire articles, though an example I detailed yesterday — along with the newly identified suspicious story detailed below — strongly suggest he did. That possibility wasn’t mentioned in McCumber’s note to readers about Jha’s firing.

Number 26?

The article, likely fabricated, that I wrote about yesterday was removed from the website, as per the policy outlined in McCumber’s note to readers.

However, a look through some of Jha’s other recent pieces that remain on the site turned up at least one highly suspect story, “Not all parents hand over the keys at 16.” Update: At some point today, after my story was published, the aforementioned article was removed from the New Canaan News website, leading to the conclusion that it was fabricated.

(I intend to keep looking for problematic stories until someone from the New Canaan News provides information about the status of their search and offers details about what they found.)

Jha’s June 7 article about young drivers shares much in common with the recently disappeared Jha story that looks entirely fabricated. It, too, includes unusually named sources with no online profile, an absence of quotes or statistics from official sources, and a series of too-perfect quotes that often feature a parent and child discussing an issue.

Here’s a sample quote from “Roxy Trestioli,” who the story says was not allowed to drive until she hit 18; Trestioli is nowhere to be found on Facebook or elsewhere online:

“I was really angry and depressed about it in high school. Obviously, all my friends were getting cars and licenses so it was difficult,” she said. “But at the same time, a lot of my friends were also getting speeding tickets and into accidents because of all the newfound freedom they had. I still tell my dad I could have handled the responsibility, but in retrospect I didn’t miss out on much. I was still hanging out with my friends and having a good time.”

That’s an unbelievably perfect quote, a long and perfectly phrased idea that sprang fully-formed from the mouth of a young adult. (Nothing against young adults; most of us don’t speak like that.)

She must have learned to speak that from her father. Here’s Jim Trestioli, who is nowhere to be found in the White Pages or elsewhere online:

“Her safety was the first thing on my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I trust Roxy in making the right decisions, but I don’t trust the environments she could have been influenced by,” he said. “When kids get that freedom around the same time as all of their friends, there is this euphoria about it and they tend to not look at the ramifications of their actions in that situation. I had seen enough car accidents where the slightest distraction could ruin lives, so I decided that Roxy could get her learner’s permit, but I wouldn’t let her get a license until after high school was over.”

And on it goes. We hear from “retired driving instructor” Jocelyn Retrede (a play on “retread”?) who didn’t let her sons get their licenses until they were in college. A perfect source for a story about parents not letting their kids get a license at 16, no?

Dan and Laurene Ulrigcht also weighed in about letting their kids get licenses, but then not letting them behind the wheel for a few years. A clever twist on the topic.

Finally, there’s Jerry Hafwae (halfway?), whose tricked out vehicle keeps daughter Tina from using her phone or texting. Interesting!

The Hafwae and Trestioli quotes were repurposed in a story published in New Canaan News’ sister paper, the Connecticut Post, and in the Stamford Advocate. This suggests the folks at Hearst Connecticut have far more explaining to do. Just how many of Jha’s fabricated stories were used in full or in part by other papers in the group? Have those papers issued a note to readers and taken the stories offline as well?

This single example offers multiple sources with very unusual last names, none of which show up in the local White Pages. None of which are linked to profiles on Facebook. None of which show much of anything in Google searches. All in the same story? Really?

In the end, the story is built solely on perfectly-formed, eloquently expressed quotes that sprang forth from ideal sources that were somehow discovered by a writer who turned out to be a serial fabricator.

And the story’s still online with nary an editor’s note to explain Jha’s offenses to readers.

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