Chuck Philips, the LA Times reporter who wrote a huge front page story in March tying Puff Daddy to the shooting of Tupac Shakur-only to find out that this main source was a serial con man and the story was wrong-has been laid off from the paper, along with 150 colleagues. On one hand, Philips once won a Pulitzer; on the other hand, he tended to write things that turned out not to be true. Perhaps journalism's just not his field. Pinkberry franchisee maybe? He'll find something. [MTV News]
Really, I wasn't trying to be posh for the book party Arianna Huffington threw Saturday for Oxford scholar Jonathan Zittrain and his new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It." I pulled up to Larry Ellison's Pacific Heights manse in a black Town Car because that's the only vehicle I was able to flag down in North Beach. Huffington, the pundit turned blog mogul, greeted me at the door and extracted a promise of my best behavior before allowing me in. (One wonders what these people think my worst behavior might be, and if they realize how tempting living down to their expectations is.)
Stanlee Gatti, the former San Francisco arts commissioner, produced the event, which drew a crowd mixed with the Valley elite, San Francisco politicos, a gaggle of YouTubers, and oddball geek pals of Zittrain. Oh, and some grubby hacks like yours truly. Melanie Ellison, the romance novelist and wife of Oracle CEO Larry, went to high school with Zittrain, it turns out. That's the kind of it's-a-small-world connection the local press corps loves to make a big deal about. But even if Zittrain didn't have this chance connection to the Valley's movers and shakers, I'd think he'd be drawing attention from its inner circle anyway.
It had already apologized, but now the LA Times has formally retracted its story about how producer Puff Daddy knew in advance that rapper Tupac Shakur would be gunned down in 1994. The paper retracted not only the story but statements from two chats and a blog post. The article is coming off the website. Specific names are formally cleared (lawyers were obviously involved in the writing of this thing). The worst part? The retraction and publicity around it come on the day Pulitzer prizes are set to be announced at noon. Some are already predicting a shut out for the paper.
What time is it? Time to pile on the LA Times for its fictitious Tupac shooting story! When one of the nation's top four papers (or, one that once held that position) splashes an investigative story this big that turns out to be based on forged evidence from a lifelong con man, you can expect a lot of tsk-tsking from the journalism establishment. But actually the reaction has been pretty muted. The reason: most reporters know deep down that they could be done in by fake documents just as easily. Slate's Jack Shafer has a rather gentle column today on what LAT reporter Chuck Philips could have done differently—mainly, don't trust con men, and always vet your documents. Your sympathy for Philips (those were convincing forgeries, after all) might be diminished, though, by this quote he gave in a recent web chat, defending his 2002 story that alleged that Biggie "Christopher Wallace" Smalls was involved in Tupac's murder—he sure was sensitive about forged documents back then: