Mitch Albom failed. Big time.
He is correct in his apology to readers that, “It wasn’t thorough journalism.” He admits he didn’t measure up to the standards of his newspaper. But that apology minimizes the seriousness of this offense.
Albom committed an ethical sin of significant proportion.
And Albom is way too easy on himself when he uses words like “assumption” and “bad move” to describe what went wrong.
Mitch Albom was dishonest with his readers.
He wrote a column implying that Michigan State alums Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson were in the stands for the Spartans NCAA Final Four game on Saturday night. He described what they were wearing and what they were doing. He described how they got to St. Louis. Albom stated all this as fact.
Albom now tells his readers that he based his details on interviews he conducted with Cleaves and Richardson two days before the game.
Albom was presumptuous. He expected these guys to do what they told him. They didn’t.
Albom wrote a column that was deceptive. It implied something that wasn’t true.
Detroit Free Press publisher and editor Carole Leigh Hutton wrote to readers that her paper “is undertaking a thorough review of the situation, as is our policy.”
And well they should. What went wrong and why?
Why did Mitch Albom do this? Is this the first time?
Did editors know Albom was writing a column based on assumptions? If so, why did they allow this to happen?
A journalist failed. Editors failed. A system of quality control failed.
This was professional malpractice.