WSJ pulls story after it discovered intern fabricated sources; intern fired

Chris Roush

Chris Roush is the dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. He was previously Walter E. Hussman Sr. Distinguished Professor in business journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a former business journalist for Bloomberg News, Businessweek, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Tampa Tribune and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He is the author of the leading business reporting textbook "Show me the Money: Writing Business and Economics Stories for Mass Communication" and "Thinking Things Over," a biography of former Wall Street Journal editor Vermont Royster.

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8 Responses

  1. John Schmeltzer says:

    Is this story available in a format that I can print for distribution to my Newsgathering class?

    John Schmeltzer
    University of Oklahoma

  2. As an ethical issue, I see three parties involved here: (1) the intern herself; (2) the intern’s supervisor at WSJ; and (3)…the intern’s professors.

    As a public relations professional now teaching the next generation(s) of public relations (and journalism) professionals at Curry College, I hammer into my students’ heads the vital importance of and necessity for ethical standards in their work.

    I emphasize time and again that their publics…those who see/hear/read the information that they communicate on behalf of either clients or employers…RELY on the honesty and accuracy of their communications to help make decisions.

    As a long-time member of the Public Relations Society of America and…now…a Member of the PRSA Board of Directors, I have to point out that PRSA…as well as other professional organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists…has a Code of Ethics that very clearly states and provides examples of possible infractions of the ethical standards that we, as public relations professionals are STRONGLY encouraged to follow.

    Among the “Professional Values” of our Code of Ethics is this: “Honesty: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.”

    In the Code’s “Provisions of Conduct,” under the heading “Free Flow of Information,” are these “Guidelines”: “Be honest and accurate in all communications” and “Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the practitioner is responsible.”

    Back to the intern…She SHOULD have known that fabricating information for her story was unethical…it was LYING. Shame on her.

    To her WSJ supervisor…This individual SHOULD have made it perfectly clear from the start that the Wall Street Journal is a highly-regarded communication medium on which readers rely for news and information. And this individual SHOULD have pointed out the Society of Professional Journallists’ Code of Ethics’ guidelines on accuracy of information.

    Finally, the college professors…If these individuals didn’t stress…from DAY ONE…the ethical standards that ALL communicators are EXPECTED to follow, shame on them.

    The college years are the formative years…start NOW emphasizing the professional standards that serve as guidance in their work.

    It’s a shame that this incident occurred. Hopefully all three “concerned parties” will take note and learn…and take serious steps to encsure that it doesn’t happen again.

    Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Member, Board of Directors, Public Relations Society of America, New York, NY
    Associate Professor, Communication/Public Relations, Curry College, Milton, MA

    • pathetic says:

      Yale doesn’t bother with all that. Yale operates on sheer power. It’s reputation and its credential is all it really needs to get by, usually. In this case the WSJ nabbed a Yalie just doing what Yalies basically do.

      haha, not to generalize. But it is true mostly, as a matter of Yale culture. It isn’t Yale that accounts for the Yalies of the highest integrity, of which there are so many, it is their families and upbringing that causes them to eschew this easy Yalie way out.

      Yalies, per se, don’t really don’t know any better. It is an overrated institution where just going there opens doors.

      Here on the Northeast Corridor, credentials are huge currency. Out west, your credential is nice, but lets judge your merits. Let’s talk to you and find out who you are, what you know, how good you are at what you do.

      That process is dispensed with here, and I mean totally dispensed with.

  3. David Bacon says:

    In all of the commentary on this story, on this and other sites, I have yet to read a single quote from Membis or anyone not taking the WSJ point of view on this. That’s not very even-handed or fair journalism.

  4. Missy Kruse says:

    This is so sad! How many really talented — and ethical — journalism students would love to have that opportunity at WSJ. In a past job, I hired a few. Our profession has enough difficulties staying viable without incidents such as these.

  5. Mary-jo says:

    In response to Bacon: Perhaps all who read of WSJ’s action recognize Membis’ lack of comprehending basic vocabulary, definitions and principles taught in most introductory college journalism courses, and therefore realized there is really no debate or other side. She didn’t practice ethical behavior as set forth in the Code of Ethics (The Society of Professional Journalists), doesn’t understand the definition of accuracy, and didn’t apply fairness.

    Or in her defense(?) never purchased a journalsim text and skipped the lecture on journalism and ethics?

  1. June 26, 2012

    […] Liane Membis was fired from her summer internship at the Wall Street Journal for fabricating sources in a story she wrote earlier this month, TalkingBizNews reports.  […]

  2. June 28, 2012

    […] sources in a story. The story has been pulled from the Journal‘s website, but was posted on Talking Biz News, along with a few comments. Poynter has a little more on the intern, Liane […]

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