Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Fabulism at The Atlantic Magazine

As a young trade association communications director in 1980, I was not long removed from being a newspaper editor and reporter. Then a flack of sorts for the National Restaurant Association, I remember picking up my Washington Post and reading an incredible, 2,200-word story about an 8-year-old heroin addict in the Washington Post by a reporter named Janet Cooke. Feel free to catch up on the incident here.

Those of you of a certain age know exactly what I'm referring to. Janet Cooke won (and became the first person ever to return) a Pulitzer Prize for her fabulism - she made it all up. That the Washington Post editors (some of whom were actually promoted after this incident) didn't bother to check the reporter's work, to this day, still blows my mind. I guess they were still intoxicated from their Watergate "success."

If you thought that episode led the industry to reform their practices, you would be only partially correct, if that. Here comes The Atlantic Magazine, a publication I subscribed to in a moment of weakness (until today). They do have some excellent writers (or, did).

They published their own entry into the Fabulism Hall of Fame with a bogus story about cops indiscriminately killing a young boy with no consequences. Fortunately, The Federalist, a favorite right-leaning (Libertarian) blog site investigated and exposed the whole mess. Fortunately, the fabulist who made up her missive, presented as fact, didn't have time to win a Pulitzer for her "work." And getting The Atlantic to fess up is perhaps the bigger story.

As if you needed it, here is more evidence that you cannot take at face value anything you read in the "mainstream" media, a cesspool into which I include The Atlantic. Including their so-called "fact-checkers." Nice work here by The Federalist.

Oh, and the Atlantic piece is still up on their web site.

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