Inquiries from "ethics" reporter, Part II

Earlier this month, the web site iMediaEthics--formerly StinkyJournalism.org--published two stories about my work. The site's articles included multiple innacuracies and false allegations. I detailed some of those falsehoods in a piece published by the New York Observer. As of today, iMediaEthics has refused to issue a single correction, using tortured logic to justify their decision (see the below emails between me and the site's staffers for more details).

The site is curently working on a third story about me, this one to be published March 12. The writer of the piece has sent me a list of misguided questions suggesting that her latest piece will, again, be rife with innacuracies, unproven claims, and sloppy reporting. You can find my full responses to the site's questions and accusations here.

The iMediaEthics site includes a mission statement promoting lofty ideals: "iMediaEthics promotes the media’s use of scientific methods and experts before publication. Our journalists, student interns and contributors publish media ethics news and investigative reports based on in-depth research. Methods are objective, not people. From brief reports to continuing investigations, we hold the media accountable by examining concrete, measurable errors of fact and ethical breaches encountered in the press. iMediaEthics’ mission is unique and differs from other journalism sites in its focus on the knowable, the testable, the verifiable—in short, the facts."

I've seen no "scientific methods" or other sound journalistic practices on display during my dealings with the site's reporter/managing editor, a former public relations consultant named Sydney Smith, and its co-founder, Rhonda Roland Shearer--widow of the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould--who covers the site's expenses. As an author being targeted by Shearer, I'm hardly alone. She previously attempted to discredit a book by  journalist and author William Langewiesche, 'American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center,' which went on to be nominated for a National Books Critics Circle Award.

My own nonfiction book 'Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire,' has come under fire on Shearer's web site as well. In attacking my work without evidence, iMediaEthics was following the lead of a handful of reporters in Baltimore who--apparently angered over getting beat on a major story in their own backyard--have tried and failed to discredit my work. Unsurprisingly, those reporters have been feeding their notes to iMediaEthics.

Rather than "focus on the knowable, the testable, the verifiable—in short, the facts," Smith and Shearer have knowingly taken my reporting out of context, injecting baseless opinions into their work and making a number of false assumptions passed off as "facts." None of their writing about my work would get past a professional newspaper editor or copy desk.

Through their coverage, Shearer and Smith have proven they have no interest in covering my work objectively, or even pretending to. 

To help readers better understand their attempts to discredit me, I'm posting email exchanges I've had with the site's staffers. In these exchanges, they falsely accuse me, at various points, of concealing my identitiy/using an alias, as well as lying about my education and resume. They also request the identities of people who attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and commit numerous other breaches of ethical journalsm

I think these emails speak volumes about a site that holds itself up as a champion of media ethics. I'm posting these communications, as well as the most recent Q and A exchange with Smith (listed under Part I on my blog), in the interest of transparency. 

Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.Mcoamr >1 (11 days ago)
to rhonda.r.shear., Sydney
Sydney,
Off the record:
Just to be clear, this is your opinion, correct? I don't see any attribution for this
information.
"He implies in this statement that there may have been some sort of
confidentiality arrangement with his sources. This does not seem credible
given that there was no indication in the story that.."
Also, may I ask why you're attributing the prior paper/ that I worked for, and
the fact that I've won awards, to my website via direct quotes? A cursory Nexis
and Google searches would confirm these things as fact. I'd ask that you take
those steps to verify, as is standard journalism practice.
I'd also like to know why most of my responses are relegated to the bottom of
the story. That doesn't seem like a fair and objective approach, considering the
weight you give to other allegations.

Sydney Smith Mar 1 (11 days ago)
to me
In response, in yellow:
Off the record: From now on we are on the record if you choose to write us
again
Just to be clear, this is your opinion, correct? I don't see any attribution for this
information.
"He implies in this statement that there may have been some sort of
confidentiality arrangement with his sources. This does not seem credible
given that there was no indication in the story that.."
Facts: your statement indicates some sort of agreement with sources and this
inference is not credible if your story has no indication of any agreement.
Also, may I ask why you're attributing the prior paper/ that I worked for, and and
the fact that I've won awards, to my website via direct quotes? A cursory Nexis
and Google searches would confirm these things as fact. I'd ask that you take
those steps to verify, as is standard journalism practice.
Those are biographical details you list. There is no ethical problem with
quoting from your bio info from your bio page. We use quotation marks
around your words for accuracy. We did not want to reword your words. If we
disputed the information we would have said so.
I'd also like to know why most of my responses are relegated to the bottom of
the story. That doesn't seem like a fair and objective approach, considering the
weight you give to other allegations.
Your defense starts after graph 6 in a 30 

graph story. The story was about

missing sources. If you offer something of substance (proof, evidence) in your

defense--which you have not done so far--we would even make it the lede.

We need verification steps such as proof such as the existence of the AA

group(s) you visited and met the missing sources? What are the AA

organizers' contact information and locations where you met these men?

You say your reporting is perfect and have lots of notes to back up your

reporting, so what went wrong that you "lost" your sources? This makes no

sense without more information.

Are you saying the men simply disappeared without a trace and you have

independent documentation and public records to prove they are real people

and had real stories (and nephew)? Are you saying you were tricked because

you did not verify the men's identity and stories before publication?

Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.com>
Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to Rhonda, Sydney 
Your story states: "Aahil Khan, who Deutsch claimed was a “classmate” and “childhood friend” of Mateen’s...

This sentence is innacurate. I did not identify him as a classmate anywhere  in my story. Please fix. Thank you.


Rhonda R. Shearer
Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to me, Sydney 
Kevin, Did you ask your paper to correct the headline at the time of publication or since? If yes, did they decline? Please forward emails or other evidence that shows you disputed the paper's headline.  If you let it stand all this time that would indicate to us that you agreed with their headline.   


-- 
Best regards, 
Rhonda

Rhonda Roland Shearer

director, Art Science Research Laboratory
editor-in-chief, publisher, iMediaEthics


Sign up for our weekly media ethics newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bJQQiP
As background: Art Science Research Laboratory, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit that I co-founded with my late husband, Harvard professor and scientist, Stephen Jay Gould, publishes the award-winning iMediaEthics as part of non-partisan journalism ethics program. Students, young journalists and media professionals work with senior researchers to learn how to foster the media's use of scientific methods and experts before publication. We also publish international media ethics news stories and investigations of factual errors and ethical breaches by media outlets. 


iMediaEthics | Art Science Research Laboratory, publisher 62 Greene Street, New York, New York 10012
phone: 212-925-8812 | fax: 212-925-0459
e-mail: info@imediaethics.org  | 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/imediaethics
Facebook: www.facebook.com/imediaethics

 

 

Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.com>
Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to Rhonda, Sydney 
Hi Rhonda,

I was so busy in Orlando, I wasn't looking at the headlines. Reporters don't write headlines at Newsday. I just filed my stories and kept reporting. 


Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.com>
Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to Rhonda, Sydney 
Just following up: it would be accurate to say the headline of the story called him a "classmate," but my actual story--under my byline--did not. I didn't make that claim. Thus, the line in your story is innacurate. 


Sydney Smith
Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to me, Rhonda 
It's been nine months. You had no problem with the headline until now. If Newsday publishes a correction admitting it erred, we will publish a correction. Newsday is aware of our reporting.
Regarding your previous email today labeled off-the-record: Stop sending us information labeled off-the-record. We told you we have no off-the-record agreement. As a final reminder, anything you send us is on the record. 

Sydney Smith Mar 2 (10 days ago)
to me
Hi Kevin,
We're working on a follow-up story. We have the following questions:
1. Queen's College told us you resigned. Why did you resign this week?
2. There is no student with your name listed by FIU as a student who
graduated. Why does the university say they have no student who graduated
with your name when it's listed on your website?

Thank you.

Kevin

 

Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.Mcoamr 2(10 days ago)

to Sydney

Can I share something off the record?

Sydney Smith Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to Rhonda, me

Looping in Rhonda for this. Her call.

Sydney Smith Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to Rhonda, me

Hi Kevin,

No. Those are our questions. Please let us know if you have any on-therecord

information or comments.

Sydney Smith Mar 2 (10 days ago)
to me
In addition, is Kevin Shulman your alias? Why would you use an alias, and
what is your real name?
Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.Mcoamr 2> (10 days ago)
to Rhonda, Sydney
But you're going to make an error without this info, and I can't share this info
on the record . It's not journalism related.
Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.Mcoamr 2> (10 days ago)
to Rhonda, Sydney
http://kevin.deutsch.tripod.com/story.pdf

to Rhonda, Sydney

http://kevin.deutsch.tripod.com/story.pdf

Sydney Smith Mar 2 (10 days ago)

to me, Rhonda

Hi Kevin,

So you use Deutsch as your last name even though it is not your legal last

name. That still counts as an alias.

Our reporting has found

1) You resigned Queen's College this week.

2) No one named Kevin Deutsch graduated from FIU

3) Someone named Kevin Shulman with your birthday graduated FIU.

Are you disputing any of this? Do you have any comment on the record about

any of this, including why you resigned Queen's College?

Thank you.

Kevin Deutsch <kevinscottdeutsch@gmail.Mcoamr 2> (10 days ago)
to Sydney
Click here to Reply or Forward
To answer your questions:
I'm an FIU graduate.
I proudly use my mother's last name as part of my byline.
I've stepped away from CUNY in order to work full time on my next book. But I
continue to teach journalism and writing to students interested in the craft.
Best,
Kevin