Wall Street Journal intern fired for fabricating sources

Talking Biz News | The Wall Street Journal

Liane Membis' internship with The Wall Street Journal is at an end, an editor's note on an article she wrote says:

"Bridging a Local Divide," published online on June 17, has been removed from the Journal's web sites. Many of the names contained in the article about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan were fabricated by reporting intern Liane Membis, and the quotes couldn't be independently verified. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal.

Membis' article is still available on Talking Biz News. Some of the people Membis claimed to interview in the piece: Katrina Maple, 64; Saniqua Dimson, 17; Shaila Tompkins, 26 and pushing a baby stroller; Carolyn Turner, 31 and carrying "two pink five-pound hand weights"; Jonqueil Stevens, 40.

The Wall Street Journal sends a statement:

Liane Membis was an intern for the Journal for less than three weeks and wrote or contributed to five published pieces – one of which has been removed from our online archives and two of which have been edited to remove quotes that were provided by the intern and that cannot be confirmed. Notes detailing the actions taken have been placed at the original URLs. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal.

The two other pieces with editor's notes are "Space Shuttle Floats Into Its Manhattan Home" by Membis, published June 6, and "Stop, Frisk in Spotlight" by Pervaiz Shallwani, published June 10.

Membis tweeted about "Bridging a Local Divide" appearing in the paper:

Tuesday afternoon, Membis deactivated her Twitter account. A page about Membis, who wrote for the Yale Daily News before graduating from the school, says she's "A Scrabble enthusiast, accidental beauty queen, and community-building fiend," as well as the reigning Miss Black America Connecticut and will represent the state in this year's Miss Black America pageant.

Membis accumulated 42 bylines at the Yale Daily News between 2008 and 2010. Reached by telephone, Yale Daily News Editor Max de La Bruyère said he had not heard of the controversy involving Membis and that his time at the paper didn't overlap with hers, but he would begin fact-checking her pieces immediately. "Given that news we'll definitely have to go back and look at everything that she wrote and check as best we can," De la Bruyère said. He has since posted a note to readers saying the same.

Membis has written for The New Journal at Yale (that story was syndicated by The Huffington Post) and CNN.

  • 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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