The LA Times = The Baltimore Sun on The Wire

by Winston "Stone" Ford


I wasn’t a big fan of The Wire’s focus on the Baltimore Sun. I thought that David Simon, the creator of the show, who made a blistering critique of our public schools in the fourth season, was basically using his show as a personal gripe since he worked at the newspaper back in the day and quit to write his books, Homicide and The Corner.

But looking at this whole LA Times thing, I gotta give Simon credit, where credit is due. The LA Times got pwned by some dude in jail, who acted as an FBI informant, and gave the newspaper false documents, which were to prove that Puff Daddy and Biggie had something to do with Tupac Shakur getting shot in Times Square in 1994. Most people credit this event as the beginning of the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud of the mid 90s.

But the LA Times was wrong:

Reporter Chuck Philips and his supervisor, Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, issued statements of apology Wednesday afternoon. The statements came after The Times took withering criticism for the Shakur article, which appeared on last week and two days later in the paper’s Calendar section.

The criticism came first from The Smoking Gun website, which said the newspaper had been the victim of a hoax, and then from subjects of the story, who said they had been defamed.

“In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job,” Philips said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m sorry.”

In his statement, Duvoisin added: “We should not have let ourselves be fooled. That we were is as much my fault as Chuck’s. I deeply regret that we let our readers down.”

Said documents were those of con man James Sabatino, of what The Smoking Gun calls “little more than a rap devotee, a wildly impulsive, overweight white kid from Florida whose own father once described him in a letter to a federal judge as ‘a disturbed young man who needed attention like a drug.'”

So how does the LA Times get punk’d by some dude in jail? Was it because of the pursuit of a Pulitzer Prize?

See, the Pulitzer Prize is like the Academy Awards in journalism. People break their necks to get one of these things. Not only does the journalist and their respective organization get a skeet inducing ego trip, but they get $10,000 as well as a shot a book deal. And since this everyone wants to jump on this hip-hop cash cow, I’m sure the dude would get a movie offer or two.

The journalist who wrote the piece won a Pulitzer Prize. Was he going for another?

David Simon was hinting at this type of reckless journalism in The Wire. Scott Templeton, the snot nosed, ass-kissing reporter for The Baltimore Sun, straight up invented stories, characters, and situations for the pursuit of……guess what…..the Pulitzer.

Sure, we are talking about two different situations. The LA Times reporter didn’t make up a situation, just relied on completely false information. But the fact that a real life news organization didn’t even follow up and investigate its sources thoroughly shows that art sometimes imitates life. This half assed journalism is real.

(via Byron Crawford, who called this thing a week and a half ago)