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 »