At the request of Technology Review, Inc., I agreed to oversee the fact checking of 10 articles by Michelle Delio that TR published online between December 16, 2004, and March 7, 2005. After conducting their own review, the editors at Technology Review had concerns regarding some of the sources and quotations in these articles.
I am on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and I selected five of our graduate students to help me conduct an independent review – essentially, rereporting the articles for general accuracy of subject matter and specifically verifying Ms. Delio’s sources and the quotes she attributed to them. We also followed up on additional information provided to us by Ms. Delio in response to our questions.
Technology Review, Inc. agreed to pay us $5,000 for this work, the sum it would normally pay for 10 commissioned articles. None of us knew or had any prior contact with Ms. Delio, and we regarded any prepublication discussions or arrangements between her and Technology Review, Inc. as outside the scope of this report.
We were able to verify to our satisfaction only three of the articles: “Augmented Reality,” published 2/15/05; “The Snow Man,” published 2/2/05; and “Encrypt This,” published 1/11/05. For each of these, we were able to either speak to or e-mail the sources quoted in the articles, confirm that they had had contact with Ms. Delio, and obtain their agreement that they were quoted accurately. (See Appendix A)
Two other articles – “Carly’s Gone, HP Celebrates,” published 2/10/05, and “Carly’s Way,” published 3/04/05 – were not possible to verify because they were based on either unnamed sources or sources with identification too sketchy to enable us to locate them. We contacted Hewlett-Packard, which first raised the alarm about the veracity of “Carly’s Way,” to ask about its procedures for locating contract and former employees.
A company spokesman said he was unaware of the “Carly’s Gone” article and would attempt to check HP records for the one named person quoted in it. (UPDATE: On Monday, May 16, 2005, Rasky informed Technology Review that HP could not locate the one named source, Keith Abrams, who appeared in the story.) We also asked Ms. Delio on Monday, April 11, if she could provide us or the editors at Technology Review any additional information that might help us locate or verify the sources for these stories. She acknowledged our request and promised to begin compiling a list of sources, but we heard nothing further from her until late Sunday evening, April 17. (See Appendix A)
Of the five remaining articles, four – “Rage against the Machines,” published 12/ 24/2004; “Race for the Ultimate Car Hacks,” published 12/16/04; “Patently Open Source,” published 1/12/05; and “The Future Shock,” published 3/7/05 – each mentions one or more sources whose existence and/or quotes we could not verify. (See Appendix A)
In the case of “The Future Shock,” a quoted source says Ms. Delio never contacted him before publication. (See Appendix B)
Each of these four articles also mentions sources whose identities and quotes were confirmed.
The fifth article – “The Invisible Fighter,” published 12/30/04 – quotes a source whom we could neither locate nor verify. In addition, the military sources named and quoted in the article deny the comments Ms. Delio attributed to them. They told us their meeting with Ms. Delio involved a conversation about an entirely different topic for which she wrote a November 5, 2004, article for Wired News. (See Appendix C)
Ms. Delio’s responses (See Appendix D) to our questions provide no direct method for reaching any of the unverifiable sources, but we will continue to follow the leads she did give us and will update this report if we learn anything new.
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