UPDATE (9/28, 6 PM): NYT editor Stuart Emmrich provides a statement to the Washington Post:
Courtney Rubin, who has written several pieces for Styles in the past year, has proven herself to be a thorough and reliable reporter, and nothing about the unfortunate incident at Cornell changes that fact. Moreover, as the editor, I probably should have realized that, in a state where the drinking age is 21, there was a likelihood that some people hanging out in a college bar might be underage and prone to lying about it. We pressed Courtney to make sure she only quoted people who were legally there — and, in fact, several people in the bar admitted as much to her, and thus were not included in the article. It never occurred to me that some patrons would not only let their fake names be published, but would also do so while having their pictures taken. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
UPDATE (9/27, 1:45 PM): The Times article now carries an Editors’ Note:
After the article was published, questions were raised by the blog IvyGate about the identities of six Cornell students quoted in the article or shown in an accompanying photo.
None of the names provided by those students to a reporter and photographer for The Times — Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson — match listings in the Cornell student directory, and The Times has not subsequently been able to contact anyone by those names.
The Times says it “should have worked to verify the students’ identities independently before quoting or picturing them for the article.”
UPDATE (5 AM): To summarize everything below: a bunch of Cornell students trolled the New York Times, providing a contributor and a photographer with fake names on two separate occasions. They seem to have done this because they were not old enough to drink. (The Cornell Daily Sun has a few more details.) Our post and headline should have been clearer about who made what up: that it was the six students, not the Times contributor or photographer, who provided fake names.
UPDATE (12:15 AM): We just got off the phone with Courtney Rubin, the article’s reporter, who took issue—rightly—with this post’s characterization of her article. We did not intend to suggest that Rubin invented or otherwise fabricated the names in question. It seems clear that the individuals described provided the reporter with fake names because they were underage. We regret any confusion this caused, and any unwarranted criticism against Rubin it occasions.
UPDATE (12:05 AM): The article’s author has emailed IvyGate:
Wow. Of all the reaction I expected, this wasn’t it — I’m truly shocked and upset. I spoke to all four of the women mentioned in the lede and one of them even told me she didn’t want her name used, so I didn’t quote her.
I’ve just now gotten off the phone with The Cornell Daily Sun, whose research suggests these women were underage and so gave me fake names. Obviously I can’t explain why they wouldn’t just decline to give me names in the first place — or decline to be interviewed full stop — but I certainly didn’t make them up.
As for the photograph, it was taken on a different evening from the day I did my reporting (Sept 12), and I was not there when it was taken.
A few hours ago The New York Times published a Trend Piece™ about Cornell’s bar scene. Among reporter Courtney Rubin’s discoveries:
Cool is irrelevant when you have arrived at a bar at the insanely early hour of just after 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, in the company of a fraternity “most of us wouldn’t go to a mixer with,” said Michelle Guida, 21, fiddling with her orange Hermès bracelet and gathering three straws to drink from simultaneously. “But it’s their bar tab,” said Vanessa Gilen, also 21, who did not look up from her iPhone as she sipped and texted furiously.
One problem: Neither Guida nor Gilen, identified by the Times as Cornell seniors, actually exist. Nor does Tracy O’Hara, another “Cornell senior.” None of their names appear in Cornell’s online student directory. (Link, link, link.)
We cannot wait to read the correction on this one.
With reporting by Peter Jacobs