Reporter falls for source with fake juvenile name, other Gannett properties print it

iMediaEthics


Fourteen Gannett properties ran a quote from "Howie Felterbush" about the George Zimmerman verdict, Rhonda Roland Shearer and Sydney Smith report. Most of the outlets deleted the quote. Some, like WTLV and USA Today, updated the story with a note saying "Earlier, this story included a comment from a source whose name could not be verified."



WTLV executive producer for special projects Anne Schindler told the reporters she interviewed the person, whom she'd noticed not a lot of other reporters were interviewing. "Maybe I need a 7th grader to approve my copy -- to pick up on the boner jokes," she told iMediaEthics. "I missed it."



Just to be safe, Shearer and Smith searched public records for a person with that name, coming up with a Peter Felterbush in Pennsylvania and a Howie Filterbush in Tennessee. They also compiled a chart of which Gannett properties did what with the quote. "It's not even that good of a joke," Schindler told them.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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