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June 1, 2007

The Stink Factor

The website StinkyJournalism.org claims to offer a "unique forum for citizens to publish research on errors they encounter in the media." For the last few days, Rhonda Roland Shearer—who is the founder of the site (and widow of Stephen Jay Gould)—has been publishing story after story questioning the veracity of photos of the Monster Pig, supposedly killed by an 11-year old boy from Alabama. But Stinky Journalism has its own malodorous journalism.

While it remains unclear whether any of the photos of the giant wild hog were doctored, it is certain that a blurb on the top of the Stinky Journalism front page is misleading. A prominently placed quote from Slate's media critic Jack Shafer that appears to be giving props to the site is from an article in which he did nothing of the sort.


a partial screenshot from StinkyJournalism.org

After Gelf saw that Shafer made no mention of the site in the article featuring the quote, we asked him what he thought of being used in a blurb that might shame even the movie ad folks. Here's part of the resulting email he sent to Stinky Journalism (and forwarded to Gelf): "While I applaud the ambitions of your Web site, the use of my name and quotation at the top of your home page makes it look as if I've endorsed your site in print, which I have not. I would like you to take it down at your earliest convenience."

Incidentally, the banner on the top of Stinky Journalism's homepage touts that the site was a 2005 Webby Worthy Award winner. But the banner links to this page, which doesn't show Stinky Journalism, and searches on the Webbys site for Stinky Journalism, stinky, and stinkyjournalism come up empty.

UPDATE: Shearer updated the link from her banner about the Webby award to point to a copy of this letter she received about the award. Also, here's a Web Archive copy of the page on the Webby site noting Stinky Journalism's selection.

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- Media
- posted on May 12, 09
Rhonda R Shearer

FOR THE RECORD: The "update" above was no "update" but should have been a correction.

This was clearly an error by Gelf.

Before publication of this post, they should asked the Gelf reporter who was interviewing me at the exact time of this post, to ask me to verify if we won a Webby Worthy in 2005, or not.

We would have gladly sent the proof and updated the links (that went bad only because Webby updated their site also at the time).

Goldenberg did not call me nor did he call the Webby's to ask if we had won before making such a serious suggestion of fraud by StinkyJournalim. His method? He just used the Webby's search engine--which was broken at the time.

With all due respect to Jack Shaffer (editor of both Jason Blair and the infamous "Monkey Fishing" hoax) why would we ever want to use Shaffer's confessional quote (about the importance of editors using a stink factor to detect bad reporting) as an endorsement!?

Think about it: For StinkyJournalism to use Jack Shaffer as the key endorsement would be akin to a conservation group using the caption of the Valdez.

The quote by Shaffer about the Stink Factor was an inspiration for our name StinkyJournalism.org. We quoted it and linked to the source of Shaffer's quote so readers would read Shaffer's confessional story about being editor of the infamous fraudster Blair.

However, after Gelf pointed out that some people may not know the history of Shaffer's role as editor in the Blair and monkey-fishing article scandals, and/or may not click on the banner link, we changed the banner.

- Media
- posted on May 12, 09
Rhonda R Shearer

I want to correct the above comment's two typos that I made minutes ago. --I wrote Shaffer which is a typo "Shafer" is the correct spelling. I meant to say he was editor of "Stephen Glass" NOT Jason Blair.

Jack Shafer was editor of frauds Jay Forman ( monkey fishing Slate hoax) and Stephen Glass at The New Republic (See Shaffer's article, "Glass Houses: Why did I--vain skeptic--fall for the too-good-to-be-true journalism of Stephen Glass?").

Shafer wrote about Blair in the context being fooled by Jay Forman (See "The Jayson Blair Project How did he bamboozle the New York Times?")

Sorry for the typos

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