Tribune turns to newsroom to fill void after dropping Journatic
BY DAVID ROEDER Business Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 17, 2012 2:30AM
Updated: August 18, 2012 6:33AM
After dropping the use of an outsourced news service for its “hyperlocal” content, the editor of the Chicago Tribune said Monday that the paper’s regular staff and “trusted free-lancers” are now responsible for the content of the TribLocal suburban news websites.
Tribune editor Gerould Kern said in a letter to TribLocal readers that information produced by Journatic LLC has been scrubbed from the sites.
On Friday, the Tribune suspended its use of Journatic after revelations that stories it produced included fake bylines and, in one case, fabricated and plagiarized quotes.
“We are acting swiftly on these issues as we investigate them,” Kern said. “The Journatic suspension and the transfer of responsibility for TribLocal content to the Chicago Tribune newsroom demonstrate how seriously we take these matters.”
Kern did not address in his letter whether the Tribune would hire any staff for the TribLocal work. He did not respond to a request for comment.
After the Tribune announced an affiliation with Journatic in April, it fired about half of the 40 reporters assigned to TribLocal, the paper’s name for its news operations devoted to particular suburbs. A printed edition of TribLocal is issued Thursdays in more than 90 towns throughout the Chicago area, supplementing an ongoing Web presence.
A check of several TribLocal sites Monday showed that most, especially those serving smaller suburbs, were still leading their news listings with stories several days old.
Meanwhile, the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school and think tank, reported that its own research turned up more than 350 stories that Journatic produced for the Houston Chronicle newspaper that used a fake byline, “Chad King.”
Poynter said that after it raised the issue with Journatic, the bylines on most of the archived stories were changed to “Journatic news service.”
Kendra Thornton, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based Journatic, had no direct comment on the Poynter report.
“As we have said, we are in the process of conducting a thorough review of our policies, software, technology and personnel,” she said. “We are immediately and forcefully addressing the issues we find and making changes where necessary. Until we have completed our review we will decline any further comment.”