Executive: Journatic’s standards ‘match or even exceed’ those of other news orgs

Street Fight

Hanke Gratteau, Journatic’s vice president of media services, talks about the news organization, which published stories under fake bylines at many newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune. The Tribune announced last December it would resume working with the company on a limited basis.

Stories about Journatic’s journalistic foibles “relied on twisted facts and half-truths,” Gratteau says.

Last summer, there was one instance of plagiarism — and that reporter was fired. That was terrible and a breach of trust with our readers and our client. But again, that reporter was fired. Major publications around the nation have faced similar charges, and they have not been pilloried in the way we were.

Besides that incident of plagiarism, Journatic clients including the Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, discovered Journatic had provided them stories with fake bylines. The Houston Chronicle published more than 350 Journatic stories with fictitious bylines.

Mike Fourcher, Journatic’s editorial head at the time of these reports, resigned last July, saying Journatic’s “founders and I fundamentally disagree about ethical and management issues as they relate to a successful news business.” Journatic claimed it was about to fire Fourcher because “plagiarism had occurred…under Mike’s watch.”

Gratteau says she was upset by “allegations that we were putting journalists out of work by employing technology and using offshore workers.”

First, there are an awful lot of companies out there using foreign workers — including major newspapers like the Tribune who have been using them for call centers. Secondly, journalists already have been put out of work because the business model is collapsing. In fact, we are putting journalists back to work.

Journatic’s ethics standards “match or even exceed” those of other news organizations, she says.

Previously: Chicago Tribune resumes work with Journatic after 5-month suspension | Chicago Tribune staffers: Relationship with Journatic ‘threatens to jeopardize our credibility’ | Journatic memo to staff: ‘DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR NAME’

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  • Colony

    @kpascal:disqus This is hardly a Poynter issue. Dozens of other publishers were covering this.

    For example, interviewers from The Sun-Times went to the CEO’s house, and the CEO (Brian Timpone) attempted to intimidate / dissuade the reporters by saying “do you know your CEO is a major investor?” which was a lie (and the Sun-Times dropped them anyway). Their CEO had less than 1% of the company…which was a remaining fraction of what was already sold off. Timpone has a long long history of creating “news organizations” that breach ethical standards (and have numerous lies surrounding them), such as blockshopper and his legal journal (Madison County Record) which was secretly funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to thwart “frivolous lawsuits” (The Chicago Tribune reported on this 7.22.12). Also, Blockshopper publishes personal data about private citizens on the web – including their home address, purchase price of their home, occupation, and family…with photos too! Timpone does this without the consent of these people, and he refuses to remove these articles if people have privacy concerns unlike every other major online database.

    The Tribune has an article calling Timpone “no stranger to questions about ethics” in the title itself (and no wonder – since his father is a disbarred attorney). And, you want to blame Poynter? Timpone made his bed, and Poynter just assured that he’d lie in it. Timpone also tried to discredit Ryan Smith by saying he was lying and then saying he didn’t even know how the company worked…to get NPR to bury the story. That didn’t work either. He set up a bunch of web pages and tried to SEO them to get his version of reality to rise above all of the articles written by Poynter, Crain’s, the Sun-Times, the Tribune, The Chicago Reader, and countless others. But, the truth is rising to the top.

    Oh, also – if Timpone’s excuse for using fake names was to “protect his writers from lawsuits” – then why did he use his employee’s REAL name on articles she didn’t even write? And you CAN thank Poynter for finding this gem…but is it their fault they are simply uncovering the truth? Please.

  • Bernie T.

    Journatic and others like it completely have destroyed all credibility for all traditional news organizations. Unless a byline is a nationally known name or is well known in the community, I automatically assume the byline and all the text beneath it are a figment of someone’s imagination. Newspapers are buying content for print and online editions that continue to contain pseudonyms for bylines. Foreign workers continue to assemble content from raw scraped data. Newspapers and news organizations went from some trust to zero trust in 60 seconds. There is no newspaper that I would rely on for accurate, factual and relevant information, plain and simple.

  • http://twitter.com/NNVC_fraud Bob Wheeler

    I love it when someone tries to discount facts by putting apostrophes around the word. The plagiarism? Fact. Fake bylines? Fact. Pretending Filipino writers were in the neighborhood? Fact. Journatic execs encouraging all this to rake in money? Biggest fact of all.

    What would make for “great journalism” would be the day Journatic started caring about news.

  • kpascal

    Since Poynter was eagerly and actively complicit in perpetuating the “twisted facts and half-truths” of this story from the beginning (no publishers covered this story with more fervor), it is so predictable that it can not now resist the opportunity to defend itself by re-hashing the same “facts”. What would make for great journalism would be if Mr Beaujon would take the time to actually speak with Ms. Gratteau directly (perhaps he might learn something from her as well) or seek whether or not there is another side to Mike Fourcher’s story and why he left the company after such a short tenure. Or even better, perhaps there is a larger and juicier story to be uncovered about old school journalists abusing the trust in and credibility of their positions to protect their institution at any cost. Now that would make for interesting reporting.