May 10, 2013

Street Fight

Hanke Gratteau, Journatic’s vice president of media services, talks about the news organization, which published stories under fake bylines at many newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune. The Tribune announced last December it would resume working with the company on a limited basis.

Stories about Journatic’s journalistic foibles “relied on twisted facts and half-truths,” Gratteau says.

Last summer, there was one instance of plagiarism — and that reporter was fired. That was terrible and a breach of trust with our readers and our client. But again, that reporter was fired. Major publications around the nation have faced similar charges, and they have not been pilloried in the way we were.

Besides that incident of plagiarism, Journatic clients including the Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, discovered Journatic had provided them stories with fake bylines. The Houston Chronicle published more than 350 Journatic stories with fictitious bylines.

Mike Fourcher, Journatic’s editorial head at the time of these reports, resigned last July, saying Journatic’s “founders and I fundamentally disagree about ethical and management issues as they relate to a successful news business.” Journatic claimed it was about to fire Fourcher because “plagiarism had occurred…under Mike’s watch.”

Gratteau says she was upset by “allegations that we were putting journalists out of work by employing technology and using offshore workers.”

First, there are an awful lot of companies out there using foreign workers — including major newspapers like the Tribune who have been using them for call centers. Secondly, journalists already have been put out of work because the business model is collapsing. In fact, we are putting journalists back to work.

Journatic’s ethics standards “match or even exceed” those of other news organizations, she says.

Previously: Chicago Tribune resumes work with Journatic after 5-month suspension | Chicago Tribune staffers: Relationship with Journatic ‘threatens to jeopardize our credibility’ | Journatic memo to staff: ‘DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR NAME’

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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