Journalist out after tainted reporting. What’s the PR damage?

The Intercept retracts or corrects unverifiable stories on a racist shooter, Donald Trump and others. Is there a lesson in its mea culpa for other organizations in crises?

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In the news business, no brand crisis is more damaging than allegations that your product was tainted by a reporter’s fabrications.

The Intercept , a site specializing in investigative reporting, revealed that it had parted ways with staff reporter Juan Thompson after he allegedly engaged in a pattern of deceit that involved unverifiable quotes and creating fake email addresses.

Editor Betsy Reed reported Tuesday that The Intercept was retracting or correcting five stories. One of them was a widely cited report that a black man had stolen the love interest of Dylann Roof, a white racist who then allegedly killed nine African-Americans in a shooting spree in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The story quoted Roof’s cousin, but an editor’s note now states, “After speaking with two members of Dylann Roof’s family, The Intercept can no longer stand by the premise of this story. Both individuals said that they do not know of a cousin named Scott Roof.”

‘Great lengths to deceive his editors’

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