‘Houston Chronicle’ Forced to Retract Stories After Reporter’s Work Proven a Fraud

The Houston Chronicle has become a laughing stock after one of its long-time reporters was proven to have invented many of the “sources” he cited for his political reporting.

From the school of Dan Rather and Brian Williams come Chronicle reporter Mike Ward who turned out to have simply invented many of his sources for his stories.

The paper has no retracted eight stories, and been forced to correct 64 more after some 275 quotes he “reported” could not be verified.

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“These are challenging times for our country, and for journalism. That makes it all the more important that readers trust that we will ferret out the truth, even if it concerns ourselves,” the paper’s Executive Editor, Nancy Barnes, said in a statement posted to the paper’s website.

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The Chronicle noted that Ward resigned in September when doubts about his reporting began emerging.

According to CBS News:

David Wood, an independent investigative reporter that the Chronicle retained to investigate Ward’s sourcing, said he reviewed 744 stories, from early August 2018 back to January 2014, when Ward was hired after a long career at the Austin American-Statesman.

“A team of three pulled out the names of 275 individuals who were presented as ordinary Texans and made every effort to find them,” Wood wrote in his investigative report. “Of the 275 people quoted, 122, or 44 percent, could not be found. Those 122 people appeared in 72 stories.

“It’s impossible to prove that these people do not exist, only that with extensive research and digging, the team could not find them. And in this age of online records, including property ownership and court filings, almost everyone can be found quickly,” Wood noted.

For his part, Ward went into seclusion and refused to respond to any requests for comment by the Associated Press or any other news outlet.

Ward’s social media accounts also went dark.

Another Texas paper where the reporter worked, the Austin American-Statesman, also said they looked at his past work for them.

“After the initial allegations, we conducted a preliminary review of Ward’s final years of work for the Statesman and did not find conclusive evidence of the kind of pattern uncovered by the Chronicle’s investigation,” the second paper said n a statement. “But given the Chronicle’s new findings and the seriousness of these allegations, we are enlisting outside journalists to conduct further investigation into work that appeared in the Statesman.”

The Chronicle apologized to its readers for the mess and promised a full accounting of the fraud.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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