Wired News, Reuters Photographer Bring Scandal Back To The Frey

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The golden rule in journalism, if there even is one: Don’t make shit up. This week, we’ve already witnessed two new media “scandals” involving journalists who did just that. First, Adnan Hajj, a Reuters freelance photographer in Lebanon, decided to make his war photos a little smokier to drive the point home. And now Wired News has revealed that Philip Chien, a space reporter and author, made up a source in at least three stories and was caught trying to fabricate another.

“Tribal Curse Haunts Launch Pad” (June 27, 2006), “NASA Boosts Heart-Monitoring Tech” (July 7, 2006) and “Don’t Flush It — Breathe It” (July 14, 2006), all by Philip Chien, relied in part on quotes and citations from Robert Ash, described in the first two stories as a “space historian” and in the last as an “aeronautical engineer and amateur space historian.”

In a phone conversation with Wired News editors, Chien had identified Ash as a professor of aeronautical engineering at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Reached by phone this week, Ash said he is not a space historian and has never participated in interviews with Chien. Ash is an aeronautical engineering professor at the university and has been involved in numerous NASA projects.

Ironically, Chien was caught because of stricter sourcing measures put in place after a 2005 sourcing scandal at Wired News in which 160 stories by Michelle Delio were questioned after editors could not prove the existence of more than 40 sources.

One would think that with all the instances of plagiarism and fabrication in the past few years — Blair, Glass, Jack
Kelley
, James Frey, Kaavya Viswanathan et al — one would want to keep from having their name added to the list. Then again, you’d also think one wouldn’t give an explanation like this:

Chien wrote that Collins died in 1997, but said he liked his quotes so much he wanted to use them posthumously.

Hajj, Chien — come on down.

Wired News Writer Faked Info [Wired News]

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