What are the odds that none of four U.S. college students quoted in an news article are on Facebook?
And that not a single one of their last names shows up in White Pages listings for people in the town they and their parents supposedly live in?
And that Google searches for the names of the students and their parents turn up not a single hit, save for that one article they’re all quoted in?
The chances are slim.
But when you know the story in question carried the byline of newly confessed fabricator Paresh Jha, the pieces start to fit together.
The story, “Kids adjust to parents’ rules after college freedom,” is no longer available on the website of the New Canaan News, the newspaper that employed Jha until late last week.
But a tipster pointed me to a version that was cached by Google, providing a look at the kind of work produced by Jha, now removed from the paper’s website. It also suggests he fabricated entire articles, rather than only offering up “quotes from nonexistent sources,” as his former employer has said publicly.
Late Friday afternoon the New Canaan News announced in a note to readers on its website that it had “found 25 stories written by Paresh Jha over the last year and a half that contain quotes from nonexistent sources.”
The note, from David McCumber, editorial director of Hearst Connecticut Media Group, did not reveal which 25 stories included fabricated material. It only said they have been removed from the site. McCumber hasn’t responded to a request for comment from me.
The paper’s choice to scrub away Jha’s fabricated work leaves readers without a full and clear accounting of what he did. The above referenced disappeared story by Jha includes quotes from eight people: four college students home for the summer and four of their parents. Not a single one of them appears to be real. No one else is quoted in the story, and it relies completely on the highly suspicious quotes from these sources.
Witness these all-too-perfect exchanges between child and parent:
“I admittedly forget he’s not 14 anymore,” said Jessica Relt, Quincy’s mother. “It’s great to have him home, but then you immediately get into the routine of how it used to be. When he was in high school, he was up early every day and on the weekends. After college, he’s more of a sloth somehow.”
“I’ve probably just been catching up on all the sleep I missed out on during all of high school,” Quincy said with a laugh.
“It’s Thursday night at around 9 p.m., and my parents are ready to go to bed,” said T.J. Fiuy, a New Canaan resident and sophomore in college.
“I’m over here getting ready to go hang out with all my friends. And they still try to tell me to be home by midnight. I didn’t have a curfew in college.”
“He might not have had a curfew in college, but he’s back in our house now,” said Robert Fiuy, T.J.’s dad. “It’s not a hotel. It’s our home.”
Fiuy said the point of his son being back home is to spend time with his family anyway.
“He can’t complain,” the elder Fiuy said with a laugh. “Our house is a lot bigger than a tiny dorm room anyway.”
The last names in the story — Relt, Fiuy, Awos, Yasht — are all uncommon enough to warrant additional checking. The paper said Jha was found out due to “unusually spelled names” in his copy.
Also highly suspect is the fact that the article features a photograph of a mother-son combo who are not actually quoted in the story. How is it that Jha was able to interview these parents and kids at the same time, gather all this wonderfully witty repartee and yet not manage to get a photo of any of them?
The story is one giant, flapping red flag.
I emailed New Canaan News editor Ashley Varese for more details about this story and Jha’s fabrications. I’ll update with any details.