Real Newspaper, Fake Story?


    My exchange with Los Angeles Times staff writer Robin Abcarian over her column on a victimized Muslim child in the wake of the Boston bombings that simply couldn’t be verified. My column that resulted can be found here:

    From: Mark Cromer

    Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 11:12 AM
    To: Abcarian, Robin
    Cc: Rainey, James; Maharaj, Davan; Goldberg, Nick; Horton, Sue; Newton, Jim

    Subject: Your Sourcing Omissions (Memories of Mike Barnicle)


    I read your column published yesterday (this morning online) and noticed a series of glaring omissions: you apparently chose not to speak with or interview the teacher, school officials or even other students who were involved in the alleged incident involving someone named “Yusef.” You apparently “heard” the bulk and detail of these allegations from a third person in another state (who surely had no agenda) and spoke only “briefly” with the mercurial Yusef over the phone.

    In fact, you didn’t identify the name of the town nor even the name of the school where this supposed example of anti-Muslim backlash took place. Nor did you name the family that were allegedly the victims of this incident, claiming that by concealing their identities you were protecting them from “further embarrassment.” Nor did you bother to speak with others around this “small town in Ohio” to get a better sense of how Muslims might be interacting with the community.

    In other words, there is simply no way to independently corroborate that the incident actually took place, or if it did what other perspectives of it may be heard and, quite frankly, whether “Yusef” and his family are who they say they are or whether they even exist at all. Perhaps that’s why “no one is making a federal case out of this, no one is screaming civil rights violations, no one is threatening lawsuits.”

    How unusual. Makes me wonder if “no one” is actually anyone at all.

    As such, your column reminds me of Mike Barnicle’s infamous Boston Globe columns—which like yours was based on a premise of promoting white guilt—were found to be works of fiction. He was rightly fired.

    Unfortunately your column presents yet another example of the continued erosion of basic journalistic standards at the Los Angeles Times, jettisoned in feverish pursuit of an editorial narrative.


    Mark Cromer

    And Abcarian’s response:

    From: Abcarian, Robin

    Subject: RE: Your Sourcing Omissions (Memories of Mike Barnicle)

    Date: Fri, Apr 19, 2013 11:50 am

    Thanks for writing. It seems like you didn’t quite grasp the point of the column. The family did not wish to be identified for fear of further embarrassment, and because, as I wrote, they wanted to deal with the school in a non-confrontational manner. The story is about the fear of backlash that American Muslims are feeling. It’s not about mediating a dispute between two 10-year-olds. It is possible at some point the family will be comfortable letting me identify them.
    Robin Abcarian


    Robin Abcarian
    California Columnist
    Los Angeles Times
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