News & Politics

In Houston, a Problem with 'Sources'

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Oops:

The Houston Chronicle has retracted eight stories by a former political reporter after an independent investigation found they were based on sources whose existence couldn’t be confirmed. Nearly half of 275 individuals quoted by reporter Mike Ward could not be found by the paper.

In a statement posted on the newspaper’s website, Chronicle Executive Editor Nancy Barnes said the newspaper also was correcting 64 other stories on which Ward reported that contained unconfirmed sources upon which the premise did not rest. “These are challenging times for our country, and for journalism. That makes it all the more important that readers trust that we will ferret out the truth, even if it concerns ourselves,” Barnes said in the statement.

The Chronicle reported in September that Ward resigned after questions arose about the existence of persons quoted in one of his stories.

As if the media’s image wasn’t bad enough already… The current penchant for relying on multiple anonymous sources by national reporters who should know better is emblematic of why the public doesn’t trust the media. If, as charged in Houston, sources quoted by name may not exist, what chances of existence to the anonymice have?

When you combine stories like this with the Twitter feeds of prominent national reporters — whose contempt for Trump and the GOP is obvious with every tweet and retweet — you get a stacked-deck media that will violate every tenet of the ethics code, fabricate any quote that’s needed, and in general push the Narrative by any means necessary in order to achieve the political results it desires.

David Wood, an independent investigative reporter that the Chronicle retained to investigate Ward’s sourcing, said he reviewed 744 stories, from early August 2018 back to January 2014, when Ward was hired after a long career at the Austin American-Statesman.

“A team of three pulled out the names of 275 individuals who were presented as ordinary Texans and made every effort to find them,” Wood wrote in his investigative report. “Of the 275 people quoted, 122, or 44 percent, could not be found. Those 122 people appeared in 72 stories.

“It’s impossible to prove that these people do not exist, only that with extensive research and digging, the team could not find them. And in this age of online records, including property ownership and court filings, almost everyone can be found quickly,” Wood noted.

According to Wood in his investigative report, “Ward could not be reached to discuss the findings. He did not respond to numerous phone messages, emails or attempts to reach him through former colleagues.”

And don’t even get me started on Jim Acosta.