On Sunday morning, the Yale Daily News published an involved fact-check of former reporter (and fired WSJ intern) Liane Membis ’12, raising many new questions about the veracity of Membis’s reporting, the paper’s ethical standards, and the leadership of embattled editor-in-chief Max de la Bruyère.
Focusing on Membis’s “reported pieces,” de la Bruyère mostly describes errors like quote-changing and creative paraphrasing. In the last two paragraphs, however, he discusses a 2009 article in which Membis brags about the “expensive meals,” “liquor,” and “hotel accommodations” she accepted from her “sugar daddy”: an older, married manager at an unpaid summer internship.
He reports that Membis “offered the News different stories about the story’s authenticity”:
In an Aug. 31, 2009 email, she said, “My story is not exaggerated, so no correction is needed.” But in a March 2, 2011 email, she wrote, “The piece … was originally written under the pretense of it being a fictional piece by the Scene staff; it was edited without my presence and published in the fall of 2009, with exaggerations which were not true.”
de la Bruyère leaves a laundry list of questions unanswered. Among them: why are her statements in 2009 and 2011 so contradictory, and what occasioned them in the first place? Which “exaggerations” is she referring to? If the article is exaggerated, why was it corrected only a few days ago? Under which context did Membis actually write this article? And most importantly: is what she wrote true?
Membis asserts that, in a bid to shock readers with suggestions of a married man’s infidelity, News staffers rewrote her article without her knowledge. So, is that true? May News staffers alter a writer’s work in that way? de la Bruyère simply doesn’t answer any of these obvious questions.
This is irresponsible: these questions are checkable, and—given Membis’s lack of cooperation—checkable only by the Yale Daily News, and perhaps only by de la Bruyère himself. And yet, apparently, they have not been checked. In an article otherwise characterized by tedious detail, de la Bruyère obscures crucial information about Membis’s most controversial work.
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