Too Good to Check: Boy Genius Makes $72 Mil in the Market!

Another bogus story in what used to be the legitimate media, this one featuring a stock-picking boy wonder named Mohammed Islam at New York's Stuyvesant High. Honestly, you can't make this stuff up. Or, then again, maybe you have to in order to get a story in a newspaper or magazine these days:

It’s been a tough month for factchecking. After the Rolling Stone campus rape story unraveled, readers of all publications can be forgiven for questioning the process by which Americans get our news. And now it turns out that another blockbuster story is —to quote its subject in an exclusive Observer interview—”not true.”

Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the “’high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”

And now it turns out, the real number is … zero.

Journalism always gets thing wrong. Lying at the top levels of officialdom too often goes unchallenged. But never in more than forty years in this business have I seen such abject credulity on the part of reporters. Some stories, it seems, really are too good to check. But, hey, it's all fun and games until somebody loses his reputation or worse.

The saddest quote from the New York Observer piece, debunking the New York Magazine piece:

Mohammed, you’re from Queens and you go to this elite public high school. Is this a hobby of your parents as well or would you be the first person in your family to pursue high finance? 

Mohammed Islam: In my immediate family, just me.

So what did your parents think when they’re reading that you’ve got $72 million? 

Mohammed Islam: Honestly, my dad wanted to disown me. My mom basically said she’d never talk to me. Their morals are that if I lie about it and don’t own up to it then they can no longer trust me. … They knew it was false and they basically wanted to kill me and I haven’t spoken to them since.

Nice work, New York. The original story is here.