At the request of Technology Review, Inc., Susan Rasky 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.
Click here to see the report findings. What follows below is Delio’s responses to questions raised during the course fo the interview. Click here to read Appendix A: The Investigation Findings. Click here to read Appendix B: The Future Shock and here to read Appendix C: The Invisible Fighter.
This correspondence was conducted via email. Included is Delio’s introduction.
Hope you had a good weekend. Attached is a word document with my replies to your questions below.
As I’ve explained to the absolute horror of others who have been reviewing my stories, I don’t retain emails from sources that I don’t intend to call on again for comments. And the vast majority of my interviews are done by email.
In retrospect, especially given my current situation, I realize that I should have simply dumped every single email pertaining in any way to every story onto some dark corner of my hard drive or – as one reporter I checked with suggested – pasted them into the copy document and burned them onto a CD. But until now I’ve been a pretty ruthless pruner of documents and data.
I typically get a lot of emails in response to my wired news stories, and if the mail comes from someone who is offering to be a source, or who has made an interesting comment about the story I move those messages over into a temporary ‘holding’ file which is futher subdivided. When I need a quick comment I check this file.
Unless a new-to-me source gives me some great insights I tend to use them once (like any reporter I also have my ‘usual’ sources who I count on) and I don’t retain the emails past the point where I assume any questions that might be raised regarding a story would have already been asked. I never, even in my worst nightmares, thought that I’d need to go back and ‘resurrect’ sources from stories that had run months ago.
Obviously, if I’m allowed to continue on as a journalist, I’ll keep a file on everyone who is quoted in any of my stories. On the other hand, I’m having a hard time in some cases finding sources who I did keep records on – people change their email address, switch from landline phones to wireless or VOIP, change their physical locations, and it becomes difficult to find them months or years down the road.
Please let me know if you need further info on the attached or anything else. The quickest way to reach me is always email – I don’t check voice messages as often.
1. Can you tell us the names and contact information for the two unnamed sources in the HP Carly’s Gone story?2. What is the contact information for Keith Abrams, the engineer in the HP Carly’s Gone story?
Brad King was specifically told that those sources needed to remain anonymous when he first discussed doing the story with me. If that was a problem – or if Brad needed to know their names and get contact info to vet them – the time to discuss it was prior to publication, when sources had a chance to opt out of being quoted. But now, given the problems surrounding that piece, the attention its gotten, and the fact that MIT Tech Review is known to have worked with HP in an attempt to track G.S down, my sources would prefer to remain anonymous. While it puts me in a very awkward and embarrassing position, I don’t blame them. I will not provide further information on that piece.
(Web editor Brad King responds: Technology Review, Inc. believes this independent report is an accurate portrayal of Michelle Delio’s reporting; however, we take exception to her assertion that our investigation led to her sources’ refusal to step forward. We did not contact Hewlett-Packard regarding G.S. for ten days after the company initially raised concerns over the source on March 8, 2005. During that time period, we determined the G.S. biographical information Delio provided was false, that the contact information she provided for G.S. would not elicit a response, and that others in his stated field of occupation could not verify his existence.)
3. Did you interview Henrik Hedegaard from Aahrus University in Denmark? (On-line? by phone?)
Blair MacIntyre, the primary source in the piece, sent an email to his mailing list of people who use DART and forwarded me their comments. You can verify that with Blair, (CONTACT INFORMATION REMOVED)
4. We are having difficulty locating Adam Shapiro from Patently Open Source. You describe his as a New York attorney, but we have no way to contact him. He has not responded to the jet email address. The primary source in the story does not know who he is. What law firm does he work for? Do you have other contact info? How did you find him?
I’ve sent him an email, marked urgent, asking him to please get in touch with me ASAP, or to reply to your message. He had contacted me originally, in response to stories I’d written on the SCO/IBM lawsuit and IDed himself as an attorney with an interest in open source, IP, and tech issues who would be willing to comment on these subjects.
5. For the Future Shock story, when did you interview Joe Korsmo? Mr. Korsmo says you didn’t interview him for the article. He says he didn’t speak with you until after your article was published when he contacted you. Do you want to comment?
I made a stupid mistake here. I roughed out a quote based on a sheaf of material I read on Joe’s art project. It was basically a placeholder that I could write around. I called and emailed his gallery several times to get his contact info and never got a reply. I evidently didn’t take out the quote or during the edit process maybe I hit ‘accept change’ rather than ‘reject change’ in MS word. I was sure I’d pulled it.
But the quote ran. I didn’t even realize it was there until I received an email from Joe saying in part: “was this quote taken from me at the gallery? I wasn’t aware you were doing a story. I don’t really mind in this case, because I probably would’ve said the quote anyway.” I explained and he replied “it’s perfectly fine that I was quoted in there, I was just wondering if the quote came from anywhere in particular. I think it’s a great article, by the way.”
6. For the Carly’s Way story, when and how did you meet G.S.?, Is there any way we can contact him, or verify that he spoke to you. Anything we could ask HP to help pin down his detail, since they are the ones who keep saying he doesn’t exist.
I met G.S at a party held at the Harley Davidson cafe during Comdex ‘97. I believe I was introduced to him by someone from Waggener Edstrom (Microsoft’s PR firm) – a woman – but I can’t remember her name. It was a total non-event at the time, I was introduced to a lot of people, and I didn’t keep notes on who introduced me to whom. I was working for Portable Computing Magazine (now defunct) at the time. I gave him my card – I don’t recall if I got one of his. I’ve looked and if I did have a card I don’t have one now. We spoke for maybe 20 minutes or a half-hour.
After that, I’d periodically get emails from him, usually commenting on a story I’d written. As far as I recall they always came through a yahoo address, but don’t have the original emails and vaguely recall him using a rocketmail address at one point. All I can say for sure is that the yahoo address is the one I have listed in my contact file. The file contains an email – which I dragged over to set up the file – dating 9/13/01 – a note about 9/11. His yahoo email address could not have been created recently, unless he cancelled it and then re-subbed.
I remember him as tall (maybe 6 foot, give or take an inch) kind of long brown hair (below his ears) swept back from his forehead, longish face. Thin. But this is a vague memory from eight years ago, I would recognize him if I saw him again.
Note: I’ve tried to reach Elliot Borin, who as my editor at Portable and who I believe may have been with me when I met G.S. The email address I have for him (CONTACT INFORMATION REMOVED) is dead. Ditto the last phone number, which is for a phone in woodland Hills, Ca. I’ve googled his name with no luck. If you can help me get an email address or phone number for him using your resources that’d be great.
7. How did you verify G.S’s story? Or confirm he worked at HP? Are you willing to have him contact us, so we can verify him?
At the time I met him I didn’t really question it, why would anyone say they worked for HP when they didn’t? Plus that particular party was (in theory) difficult to get into without industry connections. And over the years his emails displayed accurate tech knowledge. When I contacted him for the HP story, everything he told me (via email) fit perfectly with what was being said by other people within the company. My best guess now is that he has a relation or friend who works/worked for HP. That’s just a guess – he may also just follow HP news and gossip for reasons I can’t even begin to guess.
I assume you know that G.S. provided a bio, at Jason Pontin’s specific request, which I forwarded to Pontin when I submitted the story on 2/14. I was told that the bio would be vetted – Pontin made a point of telling me that. I can forward the email to you if you need it.
The bio listed G.S’s education and current professional affiliations. I found out the bio hadn’t been verified only after the story ran two weeks later and HP questioned it. I don’t always do backgrounder on sources, but in a single-source, anonymous source piece attacking a prominent company and businessperson, I certainly would have done a quick check of the bio info had I thought Tech Review didn’t plan to do so.
I had told G.S. the bio would be vetted, so he may have assumed we would have figured out it was a scam before publishing. Again, that’s only (and obviously) a guess – I have no idea what he was thinking.
8. In Rage Against the Machines, how and when did you contact Manhattan graphic designer Jim Heedles about computer rage? Does he live in Manhattan? Does he work for a firm or independently? Do you have his contact information?
I sent an email to about a dozen friends asking for stories about computer ‘abuse’ and requesting they forward the email along to their friends if they wanted to. I got maybe a couple of dozen replies, opted to use Heedles for no particular reason, there were several similar tales among the emails. I did not retain these emails, as I thought I wouldn’t need them after the story ran. Given that it was a light-hearted supporting quote in the midst of an obviously humorous story I didn’t ask Heedles where he worked or lived. I did vet the professor whose comments are central to the story.
9. In Race for the Ultimate Car Hacks, how and when did you contact Mark Simnon? Is this spelled correctly, or should it be Simon? What kind of law does he practice and where is he practicing and where does he live? Do you have his contact information?
I didn’t retain emails from Simnon – or from any of the sources used in the car hacks piece. I no longer have his contact info. I believe he contacted me after reading stories I’d done for Wired News, but I’m not certain. I’ve sent emails to two PR firms who I sometimes get legal contacts from to ask if I might have made initial contact through them.
10. Also in Car Hacks, how and when did you contact Staten Island mechanic Steve Ferrello about car hacking? What is the name of his business or the business where he works? Where does he live? Do you have his contact information?
Ferrello has worked on several of my friends cars. I called to check and see if he was okay with me passing contact info along to you and was told by his wife that they had separated and he was living elsewhere. She said she’d give him a message, but didn’t want to pass along his contact info without his ok. I left your office phone number with her, as well as a brief explanation. Please let me know if you don’t hear from him over the next few days.
11. In same story, “Hobbit” says he doesn’t want to talk to us, so we’ve been unable to verify quotes and content with him. Can you help us here?
If you can point me to ways I can help I’d be happy to do so. Did he say why he didn’t want to speak with you? Several of my sources have told me they have been contacted by numerous reporters and bloggers questioning them about whether they’d actually spoken with me and I think people are just tired of the barrage of questions that may be why Hobbit doesn’t want to speak with you.
Or he may just not want to be involved in this whole mess. I’m sorry you’re getting flack that shouldn’t rightfully be directed at you. How would you suggest we proceed? As noted above, I didn’t keep emails from sources used in this piece.
12. In the The Invisible Fighter, can you explain the circumstances in which you spoke to Col. Rowan and Michael Logue about the military developing camouflage technology for urban environments?
During a ‘geek road trip’ down the Mississippi river for wired news last fall, we spent the day at the Corps’ Vicksburg headquarters. (Oct. 21). We primarily discussed tele-engineering and the corps efforts to control the Mississippi. But we also had a very brief discussion of emerging military technology, including the urban camo tech. I told Michael Logue when I left that I had enough material for three or four stories.
13. Who is Frank Kennedy, the retired optical engineer, you quote in the article? How did you find him and how can we get in touch with him?
I met Kennedy at Andy Antipass’ art gallery in New Orleans and interviewed him during the last week of October 2004 (I don’t recall the specific date). I had discussed the story on urban camo with Antipass – just reviewing the stories we’d done and discovered during the road trip – and as I discussed the idea of making soldiers invisible to onlookers he mentioned that he had a regular gallery visitor who was an engineer and had done work with optics who might be able to add something to the story.
I attempted to email Kennedy via a hotmail address but got no reply. Called Antipass on Saturday the 17th and asked him if he had a phone number or could get a message to Kennedy. He said he hadn’t seen him for a few months and was concerned since Kennedy had been ill. You can confirm this via Antipass at (CONTACT INFORMATION REMOVED). He asked that you put my name in the subject line to distinguish it from junkmail.
14. Both Michael Logue and Col. Rowan said in interviews we had with them last week that they did not speak with you about the camouflage technology. Do you have notes or tapes? How would you respond?
On 1/18, Bobbie Galford from the Corps, who sat in on the interview with rowan, called me to say that Col. Rowan wasn’t sure if we discussed urban camo, as that is not part of the Corps mission (they aren’t involved in developing it). I told her that I was sure he did, recounted the part of the conversation that led up to the brief discussion on urban camo, but said that if they were uncomfortable with the quote I would have Brad remove it and issue a correction. She told me no, it was fine, she was primarily calling to get info on what military agency was developing the technology. Bobbie’s phone number is (CONTACT INFORMATION REMOVED).
Recently Logue also told a blogger that I’d misquoted him in a Wired News story. When I contacted him to ask for details, again offering to correct the quote, he told me it was a very small issue, that the info in the quote was correct but he didn’t think he said it – he thought perhaps someone else who was there did or I’d gotten it from the PR stuff he’d given me, but that there was no need to fix it, he loved the stories and had been ‘bragging about them.’ I’ll forward that email to you.
Frankly, I’m at a loss here, I offered to correct the quotes even though I was confident I’d gotten them right, assuming the source should be given the benefit of the doubt, but each time was told it wasn’t necessary. Additionally see above – I was discussing the story back in October when I got to New Orleans right after leaving Vicksburg.