Why is a 2010 article about the DKE pledge chants on the top stories on the Yale Daily News website?

Take a trip down memory lane to four years ago, when men were real, the brotherhood was real, and fraternities at Yale were raw:

In October 2010, Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges stood on Old Campus, shouted obscenities about co-eds and took the meaning of consent for a spin. For some unknown reason, the Yale Daily News report on this event has reappeared on the front page of its website–it appeared first under the Most Popular heading yesterday (it’s still there today, trailing after some articles from the Opinion section).

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#tbt Here’s What Weed Cost 40 Years Ago in the Ivy League

Student journalism and service journalism have long been one in the same. Today’s case in point is the Yale Daily News (where, disclosure, I sometimes write and used to edit), which covered the marijuana beat fastidiously during the 70s—long before the New York Times said pot was cool. Back in 1971, the YDN went so far as to publish a front-page report on marijuana prices across the Ivy League, the perfect candidate for a Thursday throwback.

The 1971 report was a high point in the paper’s remarkably extensive coverage of campus weed prices (not to mention weed scandals) throughout the decade. Archived materials from the YDN and other campus papers provide a detailed–and often very amusing–account of Ivy League drug use at a time when Clinton did not inhale and not all of the schools allowed women.

So how did the entitled little shits of 1971 take their drugs? Cheaply, frequently and publicly, in short. We pored over back issues of Ivy League student papers to capture and create, for fun and posterity alike, a definitive guide to getting high during the Nixon administration, starting with costs and moving outward to campus culture:

Join us on this journey

Yalies Need To Work On Their Humor, Common Human Decency

Hate to burst your bubble...

Hate to burst your (prizewinning economic) bubbles…

Generally when a Nobel Prize-winning economist—like, say, Robert Schiller—agrees to teach a 400 person course to a bunch of 18-year-olds—like, say, the Yale Introductory Macroeconomics class—the 18-year-olds in question sit back, shut up, and bask in the knowledge.

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A Truck Filled With Fish Crashed Into A Yale Building

Earlier today, a fish delivery on the Yale University campus went awry when a truck crashed into the modernist Loria Center for the History of Art. The Yale Daily News reports that around 10 a.m. the driver of a Connecticut Shellfish Company delivery truck carrying shrimp, lobster meat and haddock fillets lost control of his vehicle. The truck subsequently crashed into the front entrance of the Loria Center and shattered a glass door, according to the YDN.

No one was injured in the accident, except for the driver’s pride. As he told the YDN, “I’m embarrassed, that’s all.”

As Deadspin points out, there is a certain poetry to this particular delivery truck crashing into this particular building, which is named after Yale alum Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Miami Marlins. Besides the amusing coincidence of a fish truck denting a fish team owner’s building, there may also be a deeper meaning about the state of the baseball team (the Marlins are currently 67-91).

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.

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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 »

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 »

Star Yale Quarterback Lost Rhodes Scholarship Bid After Sexual Assault Allegation; Yale Daily News Buried the Story

Last fall the national press fell in love with Patrick Witt, a Yale quarterback, and NFL hopeful, who gave up his finalist interview for a Rhodes scholarship so he could play in the Harvard-Yale game.

Now the New York Times reports that, in fact, Witt didn’t turn down the interview of his own accord: the Rhodes committee suspended his candidacy and cancelled his interview after someone (who was not a Yale official) informed it that Witt had been accused of sexual assault in September.

It’s not clear whether the Yale official who initially approved Witt to apply for the Rhodes knew about the sexual assault incident, for which Witt went through an informal disciplinary process (and seemingly faced no consequences?) — but it’s likely he did. Interesting factoid: Witt was a member of DKE, the Yale frat that made really horrible headlines for sexual harrassment a few years ago. So this is very ugly for Yale.

Witt is reportedly no longer enrolled at Yale (?) but is still finishing his thesis? Unclear.

But, wait. That the story was broken by the Times probably strikes you as odd; the Yale Daily News — second best collegiate paper in the land — is normally all over these types of scandals like white on rice. In fact, that might be the most amazing angle of this sorry story: Former YDN opinion editor (and IG editor emeritus) Alex Klein reports that the News had known about Witt’s Rhodes woes since as early as November, but the paper’s editor in chief, Max de La Bruyere, elected to sit on the story. We reached out to the News — asking “WTF???” — but haven’t yet heard back.

And, one last quick and relevant reminder: Witt’s football coach resigned in December after it was exposed that he lied about having been a Rhodes scholar finalist.

Yale Daily News Among the “Gutsiest Campus Newspapers,” Just For Heckling James Franco

In a column this past February, YDN writer Cokey Cohen griped that her classmate — MacArthur Genius and Yale Ph.D candidate James Franco — was bad at Twitter. Little did Cohen know at the time the firestorm she’d set off, nor could she have understood its (apparently) enduring impact.

As we all now remember, Franco — upon reading Cokey’s pointed critique — proceeded to MSPaint the angriest self-portrait to ever take a shot at the News. (We’re guessing.) And, while we made light of it at the time, the episode has apparently done more than just fuel the actor’s weird, long-standing, and often uncomfortable performance-art experiment — because Mother Jones magazine just recognized it as one of the “gutsiest” acts of college journalism in 2011.

We reached out to Cokey yesterday, wondering how she felt about the accolade. Theretofore unawares, she sent us the following reply: “Wow, that’s unexpected. I don’t really think that whole incident lives up to the standard of gutsiness Mother Jones set with their other examples.*” Which, you know, is a pretty good point. Strange choice, MoJo.

*Among the other examples to which Cokey referred: Columbia’s Bwog — not actually a newspaper —  was singled out for its amazing reportage of the Columbia Five drug bust last fall. There was an honor well earned.