The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has been left a tad red-faced and had to apologize after discovering one of their reporters, Joseph Mayton, had made up interviews for his articles. For his part, the reporter denies any wrongdoing.
Mayton is a freelancer based in San Francisco, who has written for the Guardian since 2009. He has been accused of not only fabricating interviews, but also claiming to have been at events that he never actually attended.
He reportedly filed interviews with the newspaper with people who later said they had never spoken to the reporter, and he is also accused of dreaming up quotes in some stories.
— Erin Cunningham (@erinmcunningham) May 27, 2016
Britain’s center-left Guardian newspaper has recently been forced to retrench a large number of its reporters due to financial difficulties, but in the case of Mayton, they recently published an apology, not only to readers but also to the “people whose words were misrepresented or falsified.”
Lee Glendinning, the Guardian‘s U.S. editor, wrote in a recent blog post that suspicions had been raised in February this year after alleged sources contacted the company to say they had never spoken to the reporter, despite being quoted by him.
As reported by the Financial Times, following this, Joseph Mayton was “unable to provide convincing evidence that the interviews in question had taken place.”
In Glendinning’s post, she wrote, “We want to apologize to those people whose words were misrepresented or falsified.”
“We also want to say sorry to you, our readers, for the errors that have been made here, and hope that it has not compromised the trust you place in the Guardian. We assure you we will do better.”
The Guardian then hired an independent fact-checker to go through all 64 articles written by the California-based reporter and to contact the around 50 people he had allegedly interviewed and quoted. The fact-checker reportedly found widespread evidence of “likely or confirmed fabrication.”
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) May 28, 2016
RT News quotes the newspaper as saying, “Dozens of sources could not be found — either they had no online presence or they were anonymous and could not be substantiated — and several people quoted in Mayton’s articles either denied speaking with him or giving the quotes attributed to them.”
The newspaper has since removed 13 of Mayton’s articles from their website, while many others have been edited to remove inaccuracies.
The Guardian has said it will in future conduct more research into the freelancers working for the newspaper and will question the use of anonymous sourcing in any story – “a policy we hold, but have not enforced strictly enough.”
As for Mayton himself, he denies any fabrication on his part, saying, “These accusations are incorrect and I have provided evidence showing that many sources had in fact spoken with me and either did not remember or refused to be truthful.
“Granted many of these sources had been spoken with months or years in the past.”
According to the reporter, many of his interview notes have since been lost, or were not retained by him, and he could not provide the evidence the Guardian had requested from him.
“I admit that I did not do a solid job of keeping records older than a few months and that is my mistake and I am responsible for it. I, like everyone else in our profession, has made mistakes,” he wrote.
My response to the Guardian’s false accusations. Thanks to all for the support
— Joseph Mayton (@jmayton) May 26, 2016
Meanwhile, the story has caused much embarrassment for the Guardian, which holds a strong international reputation for its high quality journalism. The newspaper is well-known for winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for its coverage of the revelations by Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor.