Liane Membis Reappears with Article About Ivy Leaguers

We recently noticed that Liane Membis — the Yalie who was fired in June for planting made-up quotes in the Wall Street Journal — published an article on Thursday at Dominion New York (“the online magazine of black New York,” according to Twitter) about two Barnard sophomores:

Twin sisters Ogor and Ngozi Ogehdo, both 20-years-old and now Barnard College students left the public school system behind after elementary school for lots of reasons. They considered returning to attend a specialized high school, but chose not to because they believed they’d be happier and in a more diverse environment at a private school.

Good for her, we think! Picking yourself up after failure is never easy. Just ask Jonah Lehrer. And while we’re still waiting for someone to explain Membis’s strange post-firing dissembling, we have to agree with her Twitter bio: “Failure is not fatal.”

Yale Daily News Publishes Bizarre, Extremely Misleading Fact-Check of Former Reporter

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fired WSJ Intern Had Troubling Start at the Yale Daily News, Required Longest Correction in Years

Significant reporting errors at the Yale Daily News foreshadowed the fate of Liane Membis, the Wall Street Journal intern who was dismissed in late June for fabricating quotes. Those same errors cast doubt on the News’s investigation of Membis’s work at the paper, and contradict its claim that there is “no evidence” suggesting Membis invented or misreported information at the News.

In 2009, Membis—then a freshman—wrote an involved piece about Yale’s Marsh Botanic Garden, which later required an unusually lengthy correction that, until today, has gone unnoticed. (Due to several broken links—explained below—the note had languished in the paper’s content management system for “a couple years,” an editor told us.)

The note is brutal. Membis “inaccurately quoted” a Yale professor (attributing to him statements that do not resemble anything he said, the note makes clear), misdescribed several “well-maintained” greenhouses as “rickety,” and included numerous factual errors in the article.

At 187 words, the article’s correction is the longest the News has published in at least a decade, according to a review of News articles that were found to have contained “several” or “numerous” errors.

Timothy Nelson, the professor quoted by Membis, told IvyGate that “it seemed [Membis] was describing another place altogether.” Read the rest of this entry »

Liane Membis Apparently Now Claims She is Innocent, People Apparently Believe Her

Liane Membis, the former Wall Street Journal intern who seems to be our new best friend around these parts, is at it again! To recap her story thus far, Membis, who graduated Yale in May, was fired from her WSJ internship for fabricating sources in several articles, and it has been downhill from there. On a lone bright note for Membis, according to the New York Amsterdam News, she will still be representing Connecticut in the Miss Black America pageant. Additionally, the pageant’s executive producer tells the News that Membis now claims she is innocent. Oh.

Membis’ most glaring fabrication came in a WSJ article on the reopening of a pedestrian bridge in Manhattan. However, Aleta Anderson, the pageant’s EP, says, “In my conversation with her she denies the allegations … Her claim is that that’s her actual source on the bridge when she was writing the story.” Ok, that’s perfectly understandable for Membis to try and establish her innocence, although it does seem pretty farfetched that the WSJ would have messed up on such a grand scale. But, then this starts to get tricky, as Anderson goes on to say, “I don’t have any verification that her story is incorrect.


We’ll walk you through the piles of evidence to the contrary that seem to keep piling up, but first, we’d like to highlight a quote from the Wall Street Journal, generally considered a trustworthy organization:

“Many of the names contained in the article about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan were fabricated by reporting intern Liane Membis, and the quotes couldn’t be independently verified.”

That seems pretty definitive to us, but let’s continue. Read the rest of this entry »

Liane Membis, Cont’d.

Our previous post was awfully embarrassing, especially because we wanted to write something substantial about the ongoing Liane Membis affair. (That was why we were Googling Membis’s name, in fact.)

So let’s try this again:

After the Wall Street Journal fired her for fabricating a bunch of quotes, Membis told the Yale Daily Newsher old haunt—that

For me, I know personally it was an honest reporting mistake that I made… This is definitely something I’ve never done before.

But, as the The Atlantic Wire pointed out, it was something she’d done before, in an article published in a student magazine at Yale and re-published by the Huffington Post. So she was lying about lying, while using the word “honest.” There has to be a German term for that.

At this point Membis has two options: she can try to salvage her reputation with a mixture of silence and spin, or she can start being honest about where (and why) she went wrong. Obviously, we favor the latter option. Membis must go scorched earth on everything—everything—she’s ever lied about, or even slightly misled about, in her published work. Much less, and nobody will believe anything she writes, in any publication, ever again. Her choice really is that simple.

Commenters the Internet over—including our own—have linked Membis to the journalist Jayson Blair, whose career you can read all about on Wikipedia. Beyond the particulars of Membis’s fabrication, the point here seems to be that both Membis and Blair are black—the unsubtle implication being that they were hired not because of their experience or potential, but because of their race. It’s true that Blair obtained his internship at the Times through a minority recruitment program, the success of which then-executive editor Howell Raines characterized as such:

Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, the Irony: Fired Wall Street Journal Intern Now Writing for CNN [UPDATED]

UPDATE: That post was from exactly almost exactly two years ago! (Credit: Peter Sterne.) Thus we lied, too. Oh, the irony.

If you’re curious how this happened: we were Googling “Liane Membis” and this came up:

So it was a strange combination of Google’s “17 hours ago” tag, plus the old post being dated from exactly almost exactly two years ago, which led us down this path of deception.

But: that’s a terrible excuse. Awful. We should have checked the year twice. Tail very much between our legs. You may mock us in the comments below.

Liane Membis, the Yale graduate who was recently fired for making stuff up at the Wall Street Journal, is now writing for the “breaking news” blog of CNN—the embattled television network which came under fire on June 28 for falsely reporting the Supreme Court’s ruling on the “individual mandate” component of the Affordable Care Act.

Membis has written for CNN before, but doesn’t seem to have published anything with the network since 2011.

We’ve emailed CNN for comment and will update if someone there writes back.


Also: that was really, really, really quick.

Former Yale Daily News Writer Fired From Wall Street Journal Internship For Making Up Sources

A recent Yale grad is at the center of a news story today. Unfortunately for her, all the characters in this one are real life actual human beings, rather than in her head.

Tuesday morning, the Wall Street Journal posted this on their website:

“Many of the names contained in the article about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan were fabricated by reporting intern Liane Membis, and the quotes couldn’t be independently verified. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal.”

This can be trusted, and if need be verified, because the people at the Wall Street Journal are all real, and not in our collective imaginations. It seems like Membis has a pretty active imagination, as two other pieces she contributed during her less than three week internship have been edited on the Journal’s website to remove quotes that couldn’t be verified. Read the rest of this entry »