Articles about "Paresh Jha"


Serial fabricator Paresh Jha: ‘Yeah I made it up’

The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists concluded its independent investigation into serial fabricator Paresh Jha’s work and on Monday announced it has revoked his first place prize.

The board also said Jha will keep his third place prize because the “investigation found no evidence of deception.” The decision to let the third place prize stand is contrary to the recommendation made to the CTSPJ board by media lawyer and Syracuse professor Roy Gutterman, the independent investigator retained to look into two Jha articles that won the prizes in May.

Jha’s former employer, Hearst’s New Canaan News, previously stated that he had admitted to fabricating sources in his first place entry but that the other winning story was clear of infractions. The CTSPJ board decided to launch an independent investigation before making any determination about Jha’s awards. It brought on Gutterman in late June to investigate.

In his lengthy and detailed report for the board, made public Monday including the first public statements of regret from Jha, Gutterman confirmed that the first place winner included fabricated sources. He also found that the third place entry included two misspelled names, quotations that sources subsequently expressed concerns about, a reference to an article from Time magazine that could not be located, two sentences that “bear a similarity” to a previously published story, and inaccurate references to source material.

“Given the problems with this story, the findings of Mr. Jha’s admitted fabrications, and his own offer to forfeit his two awards, this award should also be retracted,” Gutterman wrote.

In an interview Monday, Gutterman said, “I knew that [third place] piece was questionable about five minutes after reading it … I mean, mistakes happen, but repeatedly over and over in the same story? That’s questionable stuff.”

I asked CTSPJ president Jodie Mozdzer if the board considered revoking the third place prize, and if so why they decided against it. She said the “board discussed all possible actions, but no motion was made to revoke the third-place award.” Mozdzer explained that the story did not meet the test the CTSPJ board set in order to revoke an award:

The Connecticut SPJ board used the Pulitzer board’s 1932 standard — clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception — to assess the legitimacy of Paresh Jha’s entries. … Although some sources felt their quotes were taken out of context in Jha’s third-place entry, and Mr. Gutterman questioned the writing and reporting techniques, the Connecticut SPJ Board did not feel it met the standard of “clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception” as the first place award entry did.

Gutterman said his job was to investigate and make recommendations; it was up to the board to determine a course of action.

“It was a recommendation, and they did what they felt was appropriate,” he said. I read him Mozdzer’s statement about the board’s decision and he said, “That’s totally acceptable.”

Jha speaks

I spoke to Gutterman when he was first appointed, and at that time he’d had no luck tracking down Jha. That luck recently changed, and the result is the only public statement from Jha about his fabrications and why they occurred:

In the interview for this investigation, Mr. Jha admitted that he created the two people to flesh out the [first place] story. “(In the) alcohol package the two fabricated sources were Riley and Peg Allaway and their quotes are not real,” he said. Of the Allaway names, he said, “It was just something I came up with. I really don’t know how I came up with it, it was just something that just came about.”

Jha also called what he did “wrong,” “regrettable” and “misguided.”

“He was very matter of fact [about his transgressions],” Gutterman told me. “He was pretty candid, he said ‘Yeah I made it up.’ ”

Jha claimed his fabrications began with a story he found difficult to complete.

“He said he went out to do one story and had trouble getting people to talk to him, so he went back and made people up,” Gutterman said. “He said he never made up quotes for anybody who existed. He just made up people to fit into the story.” Read more

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SPJ investigator looking into serial fabricator Paresh Jha’s work

Roy Gutterman can’t stop watching “Shattered Glass,” the film based on the story of serial fabricator Stephen Glass.

It keeps popping up on HBO, and he finds himself transfixed every time.

“I can’t flip by without watching that movie for at least 10 or 15 minutes,” he said.

Gutterman is currently digging into the work of another serial fabricator: Paresh Jha, the former staff reporter for Hearst’s New Canaan News who was recently fired for fabricating quotes and sources in at least 27 articles.

Gutterman was given the task of investigating two Jha articles that recently won awards from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists. One of those articles has already been pulled offline by Jha’s former employer as a result of their internal findings that it included fabricated material.

But the New Canaan News has not published a full accounting of Jha fabrications; its sole comment on his offenses is a 152-word brief published on the paper’s website.

The CTSPJ appointed Gutterman after the board voted to launch its own investigation of the award-winning pieces. After he delivers his report, expected by the end of the month, the board will decide what to do about Jah’s awards.

Gutterman is a former journalist and a current associate professor and director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. This is not his first time investigating something of this nature, he told me.

As editor of the law review at his school he had to investigate a senior editor who had plagiarized a law review article.

I asked how he’s approaching the investigation of Jha.

“It’s vetting and fact checking and basically going through the stories and tracking everybody down, every fact, every statement and determining what was valid and what was invalid in the two stories,” Gutterman said. “I’m being a reporter again.”

So far, he’s been unable to reach Jha to discuss the stories with the author.

“I’ve been having a little difficulty trying to track him down,” he said. “From what I was told, his cellphone was a company phone and was turned in or confiscated when he was fired, and the editors don’t seem to have any way of contacting him.”

Not long after being outed as a serial fabricator, Jha closed his Twitter account, and he appears to have recently deleted a Facebook profile. My attempts to contact him have also been unsuccessful.

“I was disappointed that nobody who was in close proximity with him at the office had a way to reach him,” Gutterman said.

The two Jha articles under investigation are a first-place piece from a first-place winning series about underage drinking, and a second place winner about the controversy that erupted over the removal of racial slurs from Mark Twain’s, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The New Canaan News article about Jha’s awards is still online, without any update to note that the paper itself determined at least one of the stories included fabricated material.

Gutterman said his work so far suggests the Mark Twain story is legitimate. But the first place story, the one Hearst flagged as having fabrications, is of concern to him.

“As far as I can tell so far there seems to be only one person that doesn’t exist in the underage drinking story,” he said. “There are still a couple of people I want to confirm quotes with. But it looks like in that whole story there is one person that doesn’t exist — which is one too many.”

Gutterman said he’s perplexed by why Jha and other fabricators do what they do.

“It’s a vexing situation,” he said. “You gotta wonder why someone could go through those lengths with something that can be easily verified and corroborated, especially today.”

I asked if his investigation will be made public.

“That has not been discussed,” he said. “I’m assuming it will be made public. This is a public spectacle, but that’s not going to be my call.”
“I can’t say it’s a fun thing to do,” Gutterman said, but “it’s important when these things happen that people get called out on it.” Read more
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Connecticut SPJ board launches investigation into Paresh Jha’s award-winning articles

The board of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists has launched its own investigation into several articles written by admitted serial fabricator Paresh Jha.

Jha was a reporter with the weekly New Canaan News who was exposed as a serial fabricator late last week. To date, there have been reports of fabrication in at least 27 of his articles. He hasn’t commented publicly, and the paper and its owner, Hearst, have said little about Jha’s offenses.

The Connecticut SPJ decision comes after deliberations about how to handle the fact that last month Jha took home first- and third- place prizes at the organization’s 2011 Excellence in Journalism awards.

Hearst informed the board that the company had found fabricated material in one of the stories that won Jha a first-place award for in-depth series. The company said it found no other problems with his winning work.

But this week the board decided to investigate Jha’s work for itself.

In a letter to members sent Friday, the board announced it had voted 10 to 1, with one abstention, to conduct its own investigation. It conducted a second vote today to name the investigator, Roy S. Gutterman, a media lawyer and Syracuse professor.

“Gutterman, a member of SPJ, is authorized to contact any individuals or organizations necessary to complete the investigation and make recommendations to the board on possible actions on the awards,” the board wrote.

Gutterman is expected to deliver a report by July 31, at which point the board will decide what to do with Jha’s awards.

The letter also noted that Jha is the third journalist to lose his job recently due to plagiarism or fabrication. The other two instances occurred at Journal Register papers.

“We are so concerned about these matters that we are considering professional programs on this topic,” read the letter.

The full CTSPJ letter to members:

Dear Connecticut SPJ member:

As current officers representing the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, we are writing to inform you of recent actions taken concerning possible fabrications in entries to the 2011 Excellence in Journalism contest.

As you may know, former New Canaan News reporter Paresh Jha was dismissed from his job. The action followed the discovery that he had fabricated sources and quotes in published reports.

Upon learning of these developments, the Connecticut SPJ Board of Directors realized that Jha was recently selected for two awards in the 2011 Excellence in Journalism contest sponsored by the chapter. Jha won a third place award for feature writing and a first place award for in-depth reporting.

We immediately contacted Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, owner of the New Canaan News, asking if any portion of these award-winning entries were fabricated. David McCumber, editorial director for Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, who responded within half an hour, said that their investigation verified facts and sources in the feature story. Their investigation, however, found fabrications in one of the three stories in the series. Meanwhile, the Connecticut SPJ board began deliberations on whether to rescind the award(s) and/or to conduct our own independent investigation of the entries.

On Thursday, June 28, the board voted 10-1, with one member not voting, to conduct an independent investigation of these entries.

Today, the board further voted 10-1, with one member not voting, to authorize Roy S. Gutterman, a media lawyer and Syracuse professor, to conduct the independent investigation. Gutterman, a member of SPJ, is authorized to contact any individuals or organizations necessary to complete the investigation and make recommendations to the board on possible actions on the awards.

We expect the investigation to be completed and a report completed by July 31. After that, we will consider whether to act on the awards.

Connecticut SPJ is dedicated to preserving the integrity of our long-time contest, and to ensuring the continued confidence of journalists in our future contests.

We condemn all unethical practices and continue to applaud all media organizations for their swift action on ridding the industry of any violators.

Over the past year, we have been increasingly dismayed to see the on-going lapse in good journalistic practices. This is the third journalist to lose their job in the state over plagiarism or fabrication. (See Middletown Press and Fairfield Minuteman.)

We are so concerned about these matters that we are considering professional programs on this topic.

Your input on this matter, changes to our contest and any other SPJ- or journalism-related matter is valued by the Connecticut SPJ board.

Please take time to give your feedback on these issues. You may email us at contest@ctspj.org.

We will inform you of any future action taken on this matter. We hope see you at a future program.

Please check the chapter website at ctspj.org for updates on all future programming and news.

Regards,

Cindy Simoneau, president

Don Stacom, vice president

Jamie DeLoma, vice president/communications

Jodie Mozdzer, treasurer (and president-elect)

Cara Baruzzi, secretary

Jerry Dunklee, past president

Correction: In one sentence, this article mistakenly referred to Paresh Jha as a plagiarist, rather than fabricator. There exists no evidence that he stole other people’s work. Thanks to commenter Arhsim Yaniv for pointing out the error. Read more

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Connecticut SPJ board considers launching investigation of fabrication in Paresh Jha’s articles

The board of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists is considering initiating its own investigation of award-winning articles written by confessed fabricator Paresh Jha.

This investigation would be used to determine whether to rescind one or both of the awards given to Jha at last month’s CTSPJ 2011 Excellence in Journalism awards.

Board member and secretary-elect Ricky Campbell, a staff reporter with The Register Citizen, said the board is currently engaged in discussions by email. Voting on motions regarding Jha will be concluded by 7 p.m. tomorrow evening, he said. Any board decision will be made public sometime after that deadline.

Jha was fired from Hearst’s New Canaan News last week for fabricating sources while working as a staff writer for the paper. The publication announced the firing and Jha’s offenses in a brief statement on Friday.

Since then, editors and Hearst Newspapers leadership have been largely silent, even though at least two additional examples of fabrication have emerged, one found by me and one found by the Darien Times.

That brings the known total of Jha’s fabrications up to 27 articles, which makes him one of the worst serial fabricators in recent journalistic history.

The revelations about Jha’s work requires the CTSPJ board to decide what to do with the first place and third place prizes it awarded him last month. The board yesterday issued a statement condemning his actions, and announcing it was “considering whether any action related to these awards should be taken.”

Today’s board discussion is focused on helping determine that action.

“We are currently weighing our options of whether to do a separate investigation into the specific award-winning pieces and then take action on rescinding the awards or not,” Campbell said in a phone interview today.

There was initially a motion moved and seconded that called upon the SPJ to immediately rescind Jha’s first place award. This was in light of the fact that Hearst confirmed it included at least some fabricated material.

That motion was withdrawn today, meaning the board is currently focused on discussing a motion to launch its own investigation of his two prize-winning stories. The board’s discussion will conclude today at 5 p.m., at which point any motions need to have been made and seconded in order to be part of the ensuing voting process.

“The discussion now is going to see whether [the] board chooses to do its own investigation,” Campbell said. “Hearst has gone out and they’ve obviously done their part to remove Paresh’s work from the website, and they removed him from his position. So right now we’re discussing whether we should look into our own investigation or take the Hearst investigation.”

He said the board received confirmation from David McCumber, Hearst Newspaper’s top editorial person in Connecticut, that Jha’s first place prize entry was fabricated. A brief statement from McCumber to the board also said Jha’s third-place story, “Teachers, students weigh in on Twain controversy,” checks out.

“We have confirmed all of the sources in this story,” he told them in writing.

But McCumber, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment from Poynter or other media outlets, did not offer any information beyond his brief comments about the two winning stories.

“That was his sole response,” Campbell said.

Neither McCumber nor the paper have provided a full list of Jha’s offenses, an updated total number of fabricated pieces, or any official comment beyond the end-of-day Friday statement on the News’ website.

Campbell said the dearth of information from McCumber and Hearst is why the board is considering its own investigation.

One delicate issue is the board includes current and former Hearst Newspaper staffers and/or contractors. CTSPJ president Cindy Simoneau, whose term ends on June 30, is currently a current consulting editor of Hearst’s Connecticut Post. She said it’s a contract position and “That work is limited to college interns and a program for high school students.” He full-time job is as a associate professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.

The board also includes former Hearst Newspaper employee Vinti Singh, who worked at the New Canaan News, and current “part-time A1 page designer and copy editor” for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Jamie DeLoma.

Campbell was unable to say if any board members had recused themselves from the discussion, but said the board is working hard to remain impartial. It’s also being careful about weighing the fact that any action taken will set a precedent for future CTSPJ boards, he said.

“Should we rescind this award, how is that going to set a precedent for future boards? That’s one thing we need to be careful of and determine the right action,” he said.

One of the hallmarks of this story since day one is that none of the people involved have been wiling to talk – not Jha, not McCumber, not Jha’s editor Ashley Varese, or others at the paper.

I asked Campbell why he was willing to speak about how the board is tacking this issue.

“I firmly believe in transparency,” he said, “and obviously this is an issue that is very concerning to journalists not just in the state but in the country. We want to, as a board, make a correct decision.”

“All of us feel very strongly about this,” he said.

By tomorrow night, they’ll have considered those feelings and voted.

Correction: This article originally and incorrectly stated CTSPJ president Cindy Simoneau is a former employee of Hearst Newspapers. In fact, as a current consulting editor of the Connecticut Post, she is an independent contractor with the Hearst-owned paper. Her previous time spent as a full-time employee with the Post came when it was under different ownership. Read more

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Connecticut SPJ condemns Paresh Jha’s fabrications, reconsiders his awards

The Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has issued a statement condemning the serial fabrications of Paresh Jha and saying it has “sought information from Hearst about verification of sources and reporting” in two Jha articles that recently won awards from the SPJ.

“The CTSPJ Board of Directors and officers are considering whether any action related to these awards should be taken,” reads the statement from Cindy Simoneau, current president of the CTSPJ and Jodie Mozdzer, incoming president. (The full statement is reproduced below.)

The New Canaan News revealed late last week that it had found 25 stories that included fabricated sources and quotes, and that Jha confessed to making things up in his stories. Since issuing the statement about Jha, the paper and Heart’s leadership in Connecticut have declined to provide additional details. In the meantime, other examples of fabrication have emerged.

It was just a month ago that Jha brought home two awards for his writing and reporting at the Connecticut SPJ’s 2011 Excellence in Journalism awards. He won a first place and third place award for two articles. The New Canaan News trumpeted the awards in a story.

There’s strong evidence to suggest Jha’s first place winning story contained at least some fabricated material. That story, about underage drinking, has already been removed from the website. The paper has been scrubbing all of Jha’s fabricated pieces from its website, which means his winning piece was removed as a result of the internal investigation. (Update: Hearst confirmed to the CTSPJ board that the first place piece included fabrications. The company said his third place entry has checked out.)

As of now, Jha’s third place story is still online and the Darien Times, which competes with a Hearst paper in that area, reports that it appears to check out.

“The Twain story remains online, and checks online of names of sources proved to exist,” said the paper in a report about Jha’s fabrications.

The story also includes comments from Luther Turmelle, a regional director for SPJ.

“I think we are all concerned there’s an outside possibility the articles he won awards for are fabricated,” he told the Times.

He also commented on the fact that Hearst has not provided a list of fabricated articles in order to help the local SPJ chapter determine if the winning pieces were affected.

Turmelle said that while getting an official list of fabricated stories from Hearst would make the Society of Professional Journalists’ job easier, the group has no power to require the company to provide that.

It shouldn’t require an element of coercion for Hearst to share information that serves the interest of its readers and the journalism community as a whole.

Without a full accounting of Jha’s fabrications, readers of the New Canaan News will never know what was real and what wasn’t. And the SPJ won’t have the information it needs to ensure the award(s) go to deserving journalists.

The paper’s failure to be transparent with its community only increases the damage done by Jha.

Here’s the full statement from SPJ:

The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists has become aware Paresh Jha of the New Canaan News has been dismissed by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers “after some of his stories were found to contain fabricated quotations and sources.”

As an organization, CT SPJ condemns all acts of fabrication, plagiarism and other unethical practices. And, applauds all media organization that take swift action to no longer employ individuals engaging in such methods.
Jha was a recent recipient of two, 2011 Journalism Excellence Awards. CTSPJ has sought information from Hearst about verification of sources and reporting included in these two, specific award-winning packages.

The CTSPJ Board of Directors and officers are considering whether any action related to these awards should be taken.

Correction: This article originally and incorrectly stated that Hearst Newspapers had not responded to the CTSPJ board’s questions regarding Jha’s work. Hearst responded to the board’s query “within a half hour” of it being sent, according to SPJ president Cindy Simoneau. Read more

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Hearst editor acknowledges New Canaan News still searching for fabricated stories

Ashley Varese does not want to talk about Paresh Jha.

Varese is the editor of the New Canaan News, a small weekly paper owned by Hearst that last week admitted fired staff reporter Jha is one of the worst serial fabricators in recent journalistic history.

The paper’s statement about Jha, published online late Friday afternoon, reported that Jha had fabricated sources and quotes in 25 stories going back a year and a half.

Since putting that brief statement online, no one from the paper or Hearst’s Connecticut operation has spoken publicly.

In the meantime, I turned up evidence that Jha in fact fabricated entire articles — something not mentioned in the paper’s statement to readers — and that other examples of fabricated stories were still online as of this week.

Connecticut-based investigative reporter Teri Buhl, who was fired by a Hearst paper two years ago amid controversial circumstances, has also been covering the story (see here and here).

Hearst’s top editor in Connecticut, David McCumber, hasn’t responded to emails or phone calls.

But Varese picked up the phone earlier today when I called. That resulted in a brief and puzzling conversation.

She reluctantly confirmed they are continuing to search for other examples of Jha’s fabrications, but declined to offer any additional details about how many have turned up or even what I should do if I discover additional suspicious stories.

“Stick to the statement,” she repeatedly told me, referring to the 152-word statement that’s now out of date due to at least one previously unreported offense.

A transcript of our less than two-minute conversation is below.

I also had a similarly brief, pained conversation with James Doody, who edits two of Hearst’s other Connecticut weeklies. Aside from saying that none of Jha’s reporting was reprinted in his papers, he declined to say much else. A transcript of that exchange follows the one with Varese.

Conversation with Ashley Varese

Poynter: I wanted to follow up and check on the status of the searching in Jha’s previous articles to sort of see where the total stands as of now?

Ashley Varese: Right now we can just refer you to the statement on our website, and that’s really all I can say.

Are you still looking in other…

Varese: That’s really all I can say right now.

Are you guys planning to update that [statement] if that’s all you can say right now?

Varese: Um… I’m trying to think [pause]. No, just stick by the statement for now and if anything changes…

I found an example that’s still on your website that looks to have been fabricated. What should I do with that?

[Silence]

Because I know it says in the statement you removed all the ones that were fabricated. So I found one, it looks like it fits pretty much the profile of some of the other fabricated ones. What’s the protocol I should follow with that?

Varese: I would contact, um… Hmmm… No, actually just stick to the statement. That’s really all I can tell ya.

So you don’t actually want to see if it’s fabricated?

Varese: Oh we’re going through, so.

Okay, right. Right. So there are more potentially that may still be online.

Varese: Mmm… [In a much quieter voice] Stick to the statement.

[Normal voice] I gotta go.

[Hangs up]

Conversation with James Doody

Poynter: I have a few questions about the reporter who was fired from the New Canaan News last week for fabrication.

James Doody: All questions are being referred to David McCumber, who is the executive editor of the group. I have no comment.

Okay, I’ve emailed him several times and haven’t heard anything back. Is he providing a comment to people? Is he…

Doody: I do not know that. I am the editor of two other weeklies, I have no involvement in this. And I have no comment.

Right. A lot of his stories ended up in some of the other Hearst papers, did they end up in your papers?

Doody: No, they did not. And I am on deadline right now. I’m afraid I don’t have time to speak with you. Read more

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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. Read more

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Fabricator Paresh Jha likely made up entire articles, not just sources

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.

And:

“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. Read more

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Hearst fires reporter for serial fabrication in at least 25 stories

Paresh Jha, an award-winning reporter for Hearst Newspapers’ New Canaan News in Connecticut, has been fired for fabricating sources and quotes in at least 25 stories over the nearly two years he worked at the weekly.

The paper announced his firing in a report published on its website just before 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

“We have found 25 stories written by Paresh Jha over the last year and a half that contain quotes from nonexistent sources,” said David McCumber, editorial director of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

He went on to say, “When confronted, Jha admitted that he had fabricated the names and the quotes.”

McCumber apologized to readers for the “gross violation of our standards.” The story about Jha is currently the most read item on the site, despite being published late on a Friday.

The paper has removed the offending content from its website, but did not provide a list of the stories, or any additional details about the nature of the offenses or types of reports affected. I’ve emailed McCumber for more details and will update with any response.

He writes in the note to readers that Jha’s fabrication was first uncovered when editors attempted to fact check “unusually spelled names” in Jha’s reporting.

Teri Buhl, a freelance investigative journalist and former reporter for Hearst’s Greenwich Time who was fired by McCumber two years ago amid controversial circumstances, writes on her website that she identified at least one Jha story that has been removed from the site.

“His editors are still fact checking his stories to see if they find additional made up quotes or sourcing on top of the 25 they reported last night,” Buhl reported on Saturday. “They haven’t told readers which quotes were made up yet.”

One story that hasn’t been removed from the site is the New Canaan News’ report trumpeting Jha’s two recent wins at the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists Awards in May.

Not that I’m saying they should remove it.

Rather, the paper should add editor’s notes at the top of all affected copy to explain that they contain fabricated material, with details about what was fabricated. Simply scrubbing the offending articles prevents readers from being able to see which stories were affected by Jha’s lies. Read more

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