Otterman speaks... (2003-2007)
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Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : travel * museum * cycling * Singapore Naturalist * science * kakis * mangroves * movies * mac and the internet * meow * NUS * life in Singapore * lit * world *

Wed 17 Nov 2004

Glass and Leeson - fact checking gone awry

Category : movies

Shattered Glass recounts the story of Stephen Glass who manages to dupe The New Republic ("the inflight magazine of Air Force One") into publishing 27 fraudulent articles by circumventing the magazine's fact checking process. Now he's written a book for a handsome fee, and passed his law school exams, but one of his former editors was still incensed after five years and denounced him at the ethics panel.

He reminds me of Nick Leeson, who brought down an institution, this one financial, the 233-year old Barings Bank. That story is depicted in the movie, Rogue Trader.

Both Nick Leeson and Stephen Glass were young firebrands fueled by ambition who performed well, were surrounded by expectations of the older sluggards, end up cheating but evade detection by circumventing inadequate institutional checks. Surrounded by people who were eager to believe, they were not really questioned about their success. Their actions resulted in significant damage and hurt many. But after the dust settles, they both profit at least from book deals.

In addition to Glass, famous tenants of the journalistic hall of shame appears to include Jack Kelley (USA Today), Patricia Smith (Boston Globe; returned her Pullitzer) and Jayson Blair (New York Times). These are just the ones who got caught. Cheating is certainly rampant; just see The Cheating Culture weblog!

Dan Rather almost joined the notorious list, and seems to simply have been too eager to believe a story that would discredit Bush (well, that's almost as bad as fabrication). He worsened it by not clearly admitting the mistake. This specific flaw of mainstream media was unearthed by lowly bloggers. Likewise in 1998, a (supposedly) lowly online magazine Forbes.com exposed the chink in the armour of Glass' respectable print magazine.

Interestingly, Leeson and Glass are depicted by the Star Wars master-padwan pair of Ewan McGregor (Leeson, in Rogue Trader) and Hayden Christensen (Glass in Shattered Glass).

Posted at 2:15PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .