(thepostmillennial)The Atlantic issued a comically long correction after being called out for publishing a story from a notoriously sloppy journalist.
Review of the article prompted by criticism from The Washington Post has revealed that the piece has several inaccuracies, and that the author may have even encouraged the subject of the article to lie to her about details.
“This feature went through our usual rigorous editing and fact-checking process. We fact-check every magazine piece extremely thoroughly,” claimed The Atlantic in a statement. This comes not long after The Atlantic received national criticism for running an now-debunked article by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg alleging that Trump called dead American soldiers “losers” and “suckers” based on anonymous sources.
After The Atlantic ran an article about the subculture surrounding youth fencing leagues in affluent areas, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece, not only accusing The Atlantic of potential inaccuracies within the article, but also pointing out that the “Ruth S. Barrett,” who authored the article, is in fact the notorious Ruth Shalit, a once highly successful young freelance journalist who fell from the top in the late 1990s after she landed herself her very own major plagiarism and shoddy journalism scandal.
The Post pointed out that while Barrett’s byline has appeared as Ruth Shalit Barrett here and there throughout the years since her scandal, the use of an initial instead of her maiden name in the case of the recent Atlantic article, along with the vague bio for Barrett on the site, left readers without important information about the source of their information.
The Post also pointed out that the content of the article itself raised some glaring red flags in terms of accuracy. The Post specifically pointed out a claim that the rich, Fairfield parents noted in the article were reported to have “olympic sized” hockey rinks in their back yards. To counter this claim, the Post presented comment from the founder of North American Rink Management, who said that he would certainly know if there were rinks of that magnitude in the area, and that he knew of none.
“We know that we’re nitpicking,” the Post wrote. “But when the former Ruth Shalit is writing for your publication, you nail down all Olympic-size claims.”
After being called out by the Post, The Atlantic article issued a 779 word correction on Barrett’s story about “niche sports” in Fairfield County, noting not only various inaccuracies, but also providing update on the byline.
The correction reveals that not only was the “Olympic-sized” characterization inaccurate, but also that Barrett may have actually encouraged a source to lie about having a son as a means of making her less identifiable in order to make the source more comfortable with sharing information.
The Atlantic explained that the Post‘s probe into the article prompted a review that eventually revealed that the subject of the article did not have a son as was originally reported. The subject’s attorney also informed The Atlantic that several other inaccuracies exist within the article that have not been addressed, but according to The Atlantic, that attorney did not share details about what those inaccuracies were.
“When we asked Barrett about these allegations, she initially denied them, saying that Sloane had told her she had a son, and that she had believed Sloane. The next day, when we questioned her again, she admitted that she was ‘complicit’ in ‘compounding the deception’ and that ‘it would not be fair to Sloane’ to blame her alone for deceiving The Atlantic. Barrett denies that the invention of a son was her idea, and denies advising Sloane to mislead The Atlantic’s fact-checkers, but told us that ‘on some level I did know that it was BS’ and ‘I do take responsibility.'”
“We are also updating Barrett’s byline. Originally, we referred to her as Ruth S. Barrett. When writing recently for other magazines, Barrett was identified by her full name, Ruth Shalit Barrett. (Barrett is her married name.)” explained The Atlantic.
The Atlantic then defended its decision to publish Barrett in the first place. “We decided to assign Barrett this freelance story in part because more than two decades separated her from her journalistic malpractice at The New Republic and because in recent years her work has appeared in reputable magazines,” explains the correction.
“We took into consideration the argument that Barrett deserved a second chance to write feature stories such as this one. We were wrong to make this assignment, however. It reflects poor judgment on our part, and we regret our decision.”
The Atlantic says it is “continuing to review” the article.