List: Journalistic disasters and mishaps


People learn from other people’s mistakes. At least, that’s what I suspect.

I’ve been teaching magazine journalism this semester to second and third year students and I’m discovering that no matter how many times I tell students that you have to be honest, sure about your facts, fair, transparent and prepared to give credit where credit is due, someone wants to challenge me on this. Way too often people are trying to find a way to write without having to do these things. Certainly people are trying to find ways around having to some serious research and interviews. Many students also just want to write about themselves and their opinions. And they often want to present opinions as facts. I find it bewildering.

So I’m employing a new strategy I hope will get new non-fiction writers understanding the importance of journalistic principles and the fundamentals of opinion writing: I’m sharing a list of media scandals. My hope is that this will send a clear message about why it’s important for all writing to be informed and fair.

Journalistic failures, scandals, and controversial columns
(so you can learn from the mistakes of others)


The Belle Gibson scandal
An honest account of our experience with Belle Gibson | Cosmopolitan
Cosmo defend failure to research Belle cancer claims | DT
How the media fell for Belle | Media Watch
Belle Gibson: The girl who conned us all | Aus. Women’s Weekly

Louise: the hidden scale of the rape epidemic in Sydney | Fairfax Media
Paul Sheahan stood down after reporting fake rape claims |
Apology – the story of Louise | SMH
Reddit feed

My Kitchen Rules contestants mislead public with review
Former MKR contestants sacked for review scandal | WA Today
West End Deli lashes scathing review by former My Kitchen Rules contestants | Yahoo

Tanveer Ahmed: serial plagiariser
Columnist Tanveer Ahmed sacked by the Australian over new plagiarism allegation | The Guardian
Foolish plagiarism in the digital age | ABC

Sydney journalist gets jury dismissed
Yahoo journalist to front court after murder trial aborted, jury discharged | The Age
Sydney journalist Krystal Johnson has Melbourne murder trial jury discharged | Herald Sun
Judge discharges murder trial jury after journalist copies another outlet’s report | SBS
Rip, reproduce and regret | ABC

Controversial columns
AFR and Mark Latham part company amid anti-women controversy | SMH
SMH columnist Mike Carlton resigns following furore over Gaza column | ABC
Bali: Why bother? |
The Age goes to Bali: The Worst Travel article ever written? | Crikey


News of the world phone hacking scandal
The phone hacking scandal explained | BBC
Timeline of the hacking scandal | Telegraph

Controversial column: Kelvin MacKenzie
Hundreds Complain About The Sun’s Controversial Column About Muslim Newsreader | Yahoo
Kelvin MacKenzie cleared by press watchdog over attack on Fatima Manji wearing a hijab during Channel 4 report | Independent


A rape on campus | Rolling Stone
An anatomy of a journalistic failure | Rolling Stone
‘Jackie’ of Rolling Stone rape article will not testify | The Guardian
Rolling Stone Writer Admits Mistakes In Reporting Of Rape Story | BuzzFeed
Rolling Stone Loses Defamation Case Over Rape Story | New York Times

Vogue forced to retract profile
The Only Remaining Online Copy of Vogue’s Asma al-Assad Profile | The Atlantic
Joan Juliet Buck: my Vogue interview with Syria’s first lady | Newsweek

Guardian apologies for freelancer’s fabrications
A note to our readers about a report who breached our trust | The Guardian
Guardian Unpublishes 13 Articles by Joseph Mayton for Fabrication | iMediaThics

Intern fired for fabrication
Wall Street Journal intern fired for fabricating sources | Poynter
Liane Membis, Fired Wall Street Journal Intern, Had Journalism Problems At Yale | Huff Post

Controversial profile: Margot Robbie in Vanity Fair(August 2016)
Welcome to the summer of Margot Robbie | Vanity Fair (Celebrity profile)

Responses to the profile:
A breakdown of that terrible VF article | SBS
Australia is none too pleased with the VF article | Papermag
VF article sparks outrage |
Writers says story was as joke | SMH
Margot Robbie calls her VF profile weird | The Guardian

Gawker goes bankrupt
Gawker’s last post – How Things Work | Gawker
Hulk Hogan Reaches Settlement With Gawker Worth Over $31 Million | NPR
A Hard Peace | Nick

Further reading:

The year in retractions (Newsweek)
Famous cases of journalistic fraud (Longreads)
Do scandal’s like Rolling Stone’s do lasting damage do journalism? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Banner photo: by Aaron Burden via Unsplash


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