Below is the entire correction issued by a publication yesterday regarding an article it published on Sept. 11. What’s going on here? I have no idea, but I have some questions:
- How could this happen?
- Does the Daily Camera have editors?
- Why are the reporters for the story not noted by name?
- Why would anyone ever trust a news source where such a fiasco could occur even once?
- At the very end of the retraction, we are told, “In addition to retracting this article, editors have taken internal steps to prevent similar incidents from happening again.” What are those steps? I recommend closing down the operation.
- The candor of publishing such a humiliating retraction is laudable, but “regret” isn’t nearly enough. An abject apology to readers and the community is mandatory. I don’t see one.
The hilarious note at the end—I bolded it—reminds me of novelists and critic Mary McCarthy’s famous quip about Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.'”
“The Camera is retracting an article that appeared in its Sept. 11 edition, headlined “Reflections on finding peace.” The newspaper has concluded the article substantially misrepresented the stories of its primary subjects — Mark Pfundstein, John Maynard and Danna Hirsch. The Camera has determined that multiple statements attributed to these sources, including purported direct quotations, were fabricated.
- Four direct quotations attributed to Mark Pfundstein: (1) that he suspended a phone call with colleagues on Sept. 11, 2001; (2) that he monitored White House orders during the crisis; and (3) that he escaped from the Pentagon and (4) personally witnessed rescues there. Pfundstein has refuted those quotations. The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, before the attack on the Pentagon, Pfundstein — who was working at the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland, Md. — participated in a video teleconference with colleagues working in the Pentagon, some of whom he learned later that evening were killed in that attack. No one on his call the morning of 9/11 was at the World Trade Center.
- A statement attributed to Pfundstein regarding phone calls he made immediately after planes struck the World Trade Center tower; and an inaccurate statement, wrongly attributed to Pfundstein, regarding President George W. Bush’s address to the nation that morning. Further, the story attributes to Pfundstein numerous references to exact times, which he says he did not bring up in interviews with the reporter.
- Pfundstein’s current vocation. He lobbies Colorado’s congressional delegation for a less militarized foreign policy. He does not speak at universities.
- Seven direct quotations attributed to Danna Hirsch: (1) regarding a statement from authorities that they could not contact United Airlines Flight 175; (2) that United Airlines had “down communications” and she suspected a hijacking; (3) regarding the monitoring of “real time, live in-flight information”; (4) stating she was “terrified to go back to the skies”; (5) that her “love of being airborne died that day”; (6) stating she had survivor’s guilt; and (7) about Hirsch’s emotional reaction upon realizing that “something profoundly bad had just happened and I would never see my friends again.” Rather than monitor “real time, live in-flight information,” Hirsch logged into the United Airlines intranet system to see who was working Flight 175 and was shut out of the system. Hirsch described these quotations in the article as “fiction” and “made up.”
- A statement attributed to Hirsch that her two closest friends were on board UA175 and that she had flown with the two 100 times. Hirsch knew the two flight attendants and had flown with them “many times.”
- Five direct quotations attributed to John Maynard: (1) that he left for work, listening to reports of events on his car radio, and didn’t know that he would “soon be … sifting through debris to help with identification” and that he didn’t know if his daughter, Danna Hirsch, “was alive or dead”; (2) that he realized that the United States was “being attacked” and that he identified UA175 as his daughter’s “typical flight”; (3) that he was “called to report in New York City … as a mental health specialist with the FBI”; (4) that he tied the events of 9/11 to “anger”; and (5) regarding veterans of the Afghan war. Maynard worked from home and was not an FBI employee, and watched the events on television. He volunteered to go to New York as a mental health specialist. Maynard described quotations in the article as “fictional.”
- Two statements attributed to John Maynard about finding peace 20 years later and suggesting that veterans of the Afghan war talk about their experiences and share them with the younger generation.
“In addition to asserting these statements were fabrications, Pfundstein, Maynard and Hirsch expressed uncertainty about the wording of other quotations attributed to them. The Camera acknowledges the possibility that there might be additional inaccuracies in quotations attributed to them. Reliable transcripts of these interviews do not exist.
“Additionally, the article erred regarding:
- The headline’s labeling of the subjects of the story as “survivors of 9/11.” None were present at any of the attack locations.
- The location of the Pentagon.
- The timing of some events on 9/11.
- Danna Hirsch’s name at the time, which was Danna Perry.
- Hirsch’s work arrangement. She was not scheduled to work on 9/11 and had not switched schedules with another flight attendant.
- The year Hirsch graduated from Boulder High School. She graduated in 1985.
- Maynard’s trip to New York, which was on a commercial flight and not on a special flight for the FBI.
- Hirsch’s trip back to Boulder, which was not in a caravan with other flight attendants.
- Where Maynard worked while helping in the aftermath of the attacks and how long he stayed there. He worked for several days at Fresh Kills Landfill but spent most of his time at or near Ground Zero. He spent about a week in the New York City area but did not return to provide further assistance.
“This list does not necessarily constitute every error in the article.
“While the Camera published this article in good faith, we regret that quotations attributed to interview subjects were materially inaccurate.
‘In addition to retracting this article, editors have taken internal steps to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”