Patterico's Pontifications


Author of Flawed L.A. Times Story Fired

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:27 am

The L.A. Times has published an “Editor’s Note” regarding that flawed story about Chico State. The author of the story has been fired.

The Editor’s Note says:

On March 31, The Times published a correction of four errors in a March 29 article about controversies arising from fraternity hazing at Cal State Chico. At the same time, editors began a full review of the story, which was published on the front page of the California section. Based on that inquiry, which included a visit to Chico by a Times editor, the paper has concluded that the article fell far short of Times standards.

Beyond the specific errors, the newspaper’s inquiry found that the methods used in reporting the story were substandard. The quotations from anonymous sources and from two named sources, a Mike Rodriguez and a Paul Greene, could not be verified.

Additional inaccuracies found during the investigation include the following:

In describing a hazing death this year, the article said that the victim died after drinking five gallons of water from a “rubber bladder bag.” The Butte County district attorney reported that the amount of water exceeded five gallons and that it came from a plastic jug, not a bladder bag.

The story also reported that the victim was alone at the time of his death. The D.A. reported that this was not the case.

The article attributed to “medical examiners” the idea that the victim may have experienced a moment of euphoria shortly before his death. That belief has been expressed by the victim’s father, who told the Chico Enterprise Record that he based it on his own research. Butte County’s district attorney said it does not appear in any medical reports related to the current case.

The article said that the parents of Adrian Heideman, a hazing victim who died in 2000, showed their son’s day planner to hazing expert Hank Nuwer. Nuwer informed The Times’ readers’ representative that he was not shown Heideman’s day planner by his parents; he heard it described by Heideman’s father over the phone.

Separate from the March 29 article, a review of an earlier story on the same subject revealed another error. On March 5, The Times reported that eight fraternity members had been charged with involuntary manslaughter. In fact, eight were charged with hazing, and four of them were also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The writer of both articles, Eric Slater, has been dismissed from the staff.

I doubt we have heard the last of this. I wouldn’t think a newspaper would fire a reporter simply for submitting one or two inaccurate stories — even stories as inaccurate as these. Given the fact that Slater’s sources could not be verified, despite an investigation by a Times editor, serious questions remain about whether Slater visited Chico State at all.

This raises further questions about his past reporting.

It sounds as though the L.A. Times realizes this, and is being proactive in looking at Mr. Slater’s past work for evidence of any similar behavior.

I hadn’t raised the name Jayson Blair previously, but there are obvious parallels. This could be a major scandal. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The investigation begins here.

UPDATE x2: Thanks very much to Michelle Malkin for the link. Anyone wishing to bookmark the site should go to the main page and bookmark it from there.

15 Responses to “Author of Flawed L.A. Times Story Fired”

  1. […] on an editor, the article in question was written by Eric Slater – the reporter who just got fired by the paper for shoddy reporting. Coincidence? Po […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » An Interesting Coincidence . . . (0c6a63)

    L.A. Times writer Eric Slater, who wrote a highly suspect article slamming Cal State Chico’s student life, has been fired. Read all about it at Patterico (and here), Local Liberty, and L.A. Observed. And here’s the LA Times’ editor’s note…

    Michelle Malkin (3ca10e)

  3. Makin’ Shit Up AT the LA Times
    Yeahp, the LA Times has its own Jayson Blair. Or rather, it did, until it canned him. The Mainstream Media We guarantee that when we make shit up that shit we just made up has been thoroughly “fact-checked” by “multiple…

    Ace of Spades HQ (1483fa)

  4. As I said at, the Times acted fast, but has a lot more to look into regarding Slater.

    Namely, where were the editors? Deadline rushes aside, what kind of an editor allows a story with five anonymous sources (from a college, for God’s sake!) into the newspaper, apparently without asking Slater for their identities? Didn’t the all-too-perfect quotes (especially from the minor staggering out of the bar) raise any semblance of alarm?

    If Slater’s named source and others couldn’t be found, I anticipate the rest of Slater’s work will be examined.

    Kevin P. Craver (dce9ca)

  5. L.A. Times Fires Eric Slater
    Yesterday, Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher reported that “[t]op editors at the paper spent an hour in a closed-door meeting to discuss Slater’s future.” The LATimes, in an “Editor’s Note” published today, announces that Slater “has been dismiss…

    Local Liberty (a8d754)

  6. More fake but accurate from our friends at the MSM.

    Allen Patterson (211d0a)

  7. The Lying Liars of the Los Angeles Times And The Editors Who Fail To Stop Them
    Author of Flawed L.A. Times Story Fired. The firing of discredited reporter Eric Slater for inaccuracies in a couple of…

    Daily Pundit (f342d6)

  8. HA! Way to go LAT.

    JMAC (a733e3)

  9. I wouldn’t think a newspaper would fire a reporter simply for submitting one or two inaccurate stories – even stories as inaccurate as these.

    Errr… why not? It’s hard for those of you in the conspiracy-minded blogosphere to believe, I know, but we in the newspaper business take this sort of thing very seriously…

    derek rose (802d93)

  10. I’ve seen the section editor of a major “respectable” newspaper file inaccurate stories on a weekly basis for years, without being fired — despite the loud and continuous protests of knowledgeable readers. The newspaper just didn’t care.

    That was before the Internet started making the media accountable.

    So I know for a fact that newspapers can and do knowingly retain journalists who just make things up. It’s only lately that we the poor consumers have begun to see just how widespread the rot has been.

    Evil Pundit (b9ccf0)

  11. So where are Slater’s book and movie deals. Crusading journalist uncovers murderous fraternity hazing conspiracy and is suppressed by the system? With Ashton Kutcher as the reporter and Sean Penn as his gruff editor?

    richard mcenroe (77115e)

  12. The LAT lost any shred of respect I might ever have had for them when a good friend of mine was shot multiple times by her estranged husband — in front of their children — and they did not one, but two hatchet jobs on her portraying /him/ as the victim.

    Achillea (8a20f2)

  13. Nice try on the LAT’s part, but at this point the only Times “standards” I am concerned with are those that pertain to absorbancy.

    Sean P (256007)

  14. Evil Pundit – Your post is a good reminder about how precious a thing credibility is, and how easy it is for a newspaper to lose.

    Obviously, without knowing the details, I can’t respond specificially to the case you mention … but your reaction sounds to me all the more reason why — if any more reason was needed — the LAT had to take this case extremely seriously.

    Incidentally, check out this recent case of a reporter and a photographer who no longer have their jobs at the Kalamazoo Gazette after drinking while reporting on the game of “beer pong.”

    derek rose (800c16)

  15. fyi – Slater has a letter up here, and there’s a former insider’s account here.

    I really don’t know what all the facts are in this case – I’m not saying Slater should have been fired. But it didn’t surprise me that he was. Will be interested to hear more about his side of the story.

    derek rose (ac326b)

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