How I Got That Story: Chris Lee, Kate Coe on Theresa Duncan

Chris Lee, LA Times writer and FBLA’s Kate Coe exchanged notes on their Theresa Duncan/Jeremy Blake stories.

When did you first get the story?

CL:I got it on Monday (7/23) but wrote and reported most of it Tuesday morning. Daily Calendar goes to the printer at 3:00 pm so it was a scramble.

KC: I pitched it to the Weekly the minute I learned she died.

Had the two stories always been the plan?

CL: No. I was heading down to San Diego to cover Comic-con the day the first one ran and there was no plan for a folo. But info kept on coming my way, some really hot stuff, and my editor made the decision to keep me on the story.

Hardest part of working it?

CL: Jeremy and Theresa had made so many of their friends and colleagues paranoid that getting anyone to talk on the record about the conspiracy stuff was tough. A lot of people seemed to think they were alone in being harassed by the couple. I had more off the record conversations for this story than any I’ve done. Paranoia rules Hollywood too, so interviewing all the agents and producers involved a lot of headbanging. On a side note, it was funny how some bloggers shit all over my first story, calling it “squishy,” etc., while getting so much mileage out of my reporting.

KC: Same for me, the on and off the record–but once I got Reza Aslan, things got easier. And I had a few contacts in interactive and games, so I nosed around and found people from her DC years.I emailed everyone who’d ever commented on her blog. I was surprised at how many people took even her most fanciful posts as literal fact.

The old NY Times story reported that she claimed a degree and thesis at the University of Michigan–did you check it out?

CL: I’m not sure about that part of it. Mike Boehm contributed that part of the story so you’d have to ask him.

KC: I called both UMich and Wayne State with her DOB and partial SSN–and neither records department showed her getting a degree, but she had taken courses both at WSU and at UM in Flint.

Did you know of other media working on it?

CL:I heard Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, New York mag and you were working on pieces too. When a producer from Anderson Cooper 360 called me up asking for the phone number of one of my sources I realized a kind of critical mass had been achieved.

KC: As a freelancer, (with a day job and a blog) I knew I had to be first with information not yet published.

LA Times on Jeremy Blake, Theresa Duncan
Theresa Duncan on Journos: “I Talked Rings Around Them”
FBLA’s Kate Coe Lays Theresa Duncan Myths To Rest