by Frank Lewis
Plain Dealer reporters have been credited with amazing accomplishments in the past decade, from exposing the former Cuyahoga County sheriff to freeing a Perry County man jailed on a questionable charge. Last Sunday, reporter Joan Mazzolini topped those feats when she used her J-school skills to quote the dead.
Mazzolini showed off her wizardry in an epic, 4,600-word front-page story about the Western Reserve Historical Society. She quoted Bill Laidlaw, whom she described as the “recently retired director of the Ohio Historical Society.”
Laidlaw died August 7, two days before he retired.
Turned out that Laidlaw had given the quote to another PD reporter on July 25, according to a scathing e-mail from PD editor Susan Goldberg to her reporting staff.
In her note, Goldberg warned of the dangers of lifting quotes from other people’s stories without attribution. “Call to see if the person can expand on their previous statement,” Goldberg advised. “Call to see if they’ve changed jobs or retired or changed their minds. Call to see if they’re still alive.”
Ouch. — Damian Guevara