Inquiry into Kevin Deutsch's reporting widens

The digging into Kevin Deutsch's reporting history intensified Monday when a new investigation called into question the veracity of several sources that appeared in his stories.

The report, written by Sydney Smith of the journalism watchdog iMediaEthics, identified discrepancies in eight sources from stories written by Deutsch for The New York Times, Newsday and the New York Daily News.

The investigation comes weeks after The New York Times published an editor's note certifying that it could not vouch for the veracity of two sources that appeared in Deutsch's Dec. 28 article about fentanyl overdoses on Long Island. The Baltimore Sun also quoted a Baltimore Police Department spokesperson who said the city has "no intelligence" to corroborate the claims made in Deutsch's new book, "Pill City," which chronicles a drug delivery scheme allegedly masterminded by two honor roll teens.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily NewsNewsday and Newsweek have also begun reviews of Deutsch's work.

Deutsch maintains that his reporting is accurate and rejected the iMediaEthics investigation in a statement to Poynter.

"Her story is wholly inaccurate," Deutsch said in an email. "I verified all of these sources and she hasn't a shred of evidence to suggest I got anything wrong. She's attempting to reproduce reporting I did in the field from her seat in a Manhattan cubicle."

For its investigation, iMediaEthics examined "a handful" of Deutsch’s stories for Newsday and The New York Daily News. In one instance, they were unable to verify the identity of Jason Hart, described by Deutsch in Newsday as a "gym-goer...of Port St. Lucie" who described Orlando shooter Omar Mateen as "intense" during his workouts. Gold’s Gym in Port St. Lucie told iMediaEthics they do not have any members named Jason Hart; Deutsch told iMediaEthics Hart said he was a member outside the gym.

iMediaEthics also attempted to verify the identity of Patricia Dula, described by Deutsch as a "friend and classmate" of a Boston University student killed during the Boston Marathon bombings. Boston University told iMediaEthics that no one by that name was a student. Deutsch told iMediaEthics "I have no doubt she was a student at BU, though it’s unclear what name she was enrolled under."

Smith also tried to verify the identity of Eric Baumer, "whose security guard shifts at the PGA Golf Club at PGA Village overlapped with Mateen’s in 2015," according to Deutsch. iMediaEthics got in touch with G4S, Mateen’s employer, who reported that they "never employed anyone with the name Eric Baumer." Deutsch says Baumer "self-identified" as a security guard and noted that "what name he worked under or has listed on his birth certificate I can’t be certain, but I had no reason to doubt his story."

In a statement to Poynter, Smith stood by her reporting.

"Our basic fact checking method?" she wrote. "Call the affiliations Deutsch claims — the school, gym, central booking or job location he uses to describe his named sources who provided him with colorful quotes. None checked out."

"Deustch asks us to take on faith that he met a guy in a restaurant and another in front of the Orlando Pulse shooter's gym," Smith continued. "He says both claimed they knew the shooter. Deutsch writes down in careful notes what they say and he quotes them in Newsday without even checking if his sources provided a real name and were truthful? He even adds, taking no responsibility for failing to fact-check, that he had no reason to doubt at the time."

Smith notes that iMediaEthics has published its exchanges with Deustch for transparency's sake. Deustch has published an extensive rebuttal on his personal blog and penned a defense of his work for the New York Observer.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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