Saturday, May 1, 2010

NYT's City Room Blog: Our Story About Megan And Jeff Was Wrong. But That Doesn't Mean It Wasn't True!

A week ago, the NYT's hoax-prone City Room blog posted a story about a 32-year-old computer consultant, Jeff Ragsdale, and his 29-year-old girlfriend, Megan Brady, who works in advertising.

The post concerned the fact that Brady wasn't speaking to Ragsdale, a situation Ragsdale was trying to fix by holding up a sign in Madison Square Park -- near the advertising agency where Brady works.

Late yesterday, after six days of follow-up reporting, the blog's editors came forward to insist that they were "unable to prove that the story of Jeff and Megan, such as it is, is a hoax."

But that's a rather odd conclusion for the NYT to draw, given the fact that it turns out that few facts in last week's blog post turned out to be provable, or true.

Ragsdale isn't 32 years old. There's no evidence that he's employed as a computer consultant. Brady isn't 29 years old. She doesn't work at an advertising agency. During the time period that Ragsdale was holding up the sign, claiming that Brady wasn't speaking to him, Brady sent Ragsdale a message via her Facebook page.

Ragsdale had told the NYT that their relationship had lasted six months, but a network news show reported them having been together for two years.

But Friday's City Room blog post -- written by editors Andy Newman and Wendell Jamieson -- isn't presented as a correction, even though it's now clear that the original post contained several errors by freelance reporter Elisa Mala.

Instead, the post's purpose was to exonerate the NYT blog on charges that it has been the victim of a hoax -- a separate, serious issue for the blog, given that it had already been hoaxed twice in recent weeks.

"After days of reporting and interviews, we’ve been unable to prove that the story of Jeff and Megan, such as it is, is a hoax," the post states. "Many details in the post are accurate."

Really? Which details are accurate?

The only details in the original story that the NYT states that it has able to independently confirm are that Ragsdale and Brady went to the same high school in Bellingham, Washington.

The original story also reports that Brady's mother died of cancer, and that Ragsdale's parents (including an alcoholic father) are dead. Maybe those facts are true, too, but the NYT doesn't say whether it confirmed them or not.

And yet -- despite the heavy preponderance of errors in the original post -- the City Room blog saw fit to focus instead yesterday on the impossible-to-prove point of whether Ragsdale and Brady had hoaxed the NYT.

Why? Well, it's true that media attention -- including The NYTPicker's own story last Saturday morning, which was the first to report many of the inconsistencies in Mala's account -- focused on the likelihood that the NYT had been hoaxed.

The NYTPicker story revealed the fact that both Ragsdale and Brady were actors, and that Ragsdale had made a regular habit of staging stunts for the purpose of publicity.

Regardless of whether the couple was actually having a quarrel, it seemed clear to us then -- and still seems clear -- that Ragsdale's appearance in Madison Square Park was an obvious (and successful) effort to attract publicity for himself.

But the fact that the City Room blog allowed itself to be sucked into a media stunt -- and without any effort to fact-check the assertions of its principals -- seems irrelevant to the NYT City Room blog.

Only at the end of the post about the two actors yesterday do the NYT editors acknowledge "lingering doubts about their veracity."

To us, that's an astonishing statement. It means that the NYT still suspects that on some level, the story they published was fundamentally false.

And yet the NYT offers no admission to its readers of shoddy reporting, and no apology for publishing a story that it still feels may be untrue.

The NYT may think that by publishing the post yesterday, it was demonstrating transparency.

But by focusing its attention on the one question no one can answer -- whether Megan and Jeff were engaged in a media hoax -- the paper distracted attention from the larger truth about its own serious and embarrassing failures on this story.


Anonymous said...

Actually it was proven through many emails, talks with many friends, Megan's father and brother and time dated pictures of them in the fall and in the snow among other time stamped facebook and emails that Megan and Jeff were actually a couple. Megan's father even told Mala that Jeff called him six months ago and asked for her hand in marriage! Many friends attested to this relationship.

Everything was found to be true if YOU check your facts NYTpicker, except their ages and who really care's about that? Actor's are usually asked an age range for when they go to an audition so they are used to giving that. Megan and Jeff were more than co-operative with The New York Times. Megan and Jeff had nothing to hide and told Mala truthful and personal details, phone numbers, addresses, photos, emails and more. Jeff is a comic yes, but he is also a guy who loves a girl and has his own original way of expressing himself! Why should him doing this to get his girlfriend's attention be of a big surprise knowing this?! ertising firm on that day and that was also verified. If s

Megan did not facebook Jeff that day. The shout out was giving credit to people in her life that were truly dedicated comics, Jeff was just one comic listed among five. There was not a special message sent from Megan to Jeff. Also, the date of that credit to the comic was given long before that day.
Megan is a film and television actress but was infact training with an investment/advertising firm which was verified. Whether she has continued on to work there after her new boss and office were hassled is up in the air due to all of this. Why don't you just stop and realize that THE FACTS WERE CHECKED and the story about these two is legitimate?!

Also, that is awful of you to question Megan's honesty in telling the press that her mother died of cancer a few years ago and that Jeff's parent's have both passed away! That information is public and her mother has awards named after her for all of the wonderful things that she did for Washington State Social Services and th commuity. Just to name a couple, Megan's mother was one of the creators of the"The First steps program" in Washington State and "The Bellingham Relay For Life Garden tour to raise money for cancer research. Google it. Jeff's mother passed away when he was 17 and his father when he was 22 and these records are public as well.

Face it, there is more than enough here for you to feel a bit childish to try to pick something out of this. These two are both wonderful people who have given intimate details about loss and love and I think there is nothing bad about them and their true story except your nasty made up comments!

Roberto said...


Megan's Best Friend Jodie (Anonymously)

Anonymous said...

Dear nytpicker:

If you are going to dump on me, at least spell my name right. It's Jamieson, not Jamison. Now I won't even see your post when I Google myself.

Wendell Jamieson


Wendell Jamieson --

Spelling fixed, above. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

It is official. I am bored by this non story.

Anonymous said...

The lexicon of a couple of pathological liars wantonly bemoaning the power of exclusion from the boring truth, just befogs the perceptual record and adumbrates whatever anticipatory deal average brains compute in completion of linear habit.

The deceived were had.

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious! One of the biggest newspapers in the world, "The New York Times" was stumped again?! Megan and Jeff did bring awareness to a very serious subject, verbal abuse which was the best part about this whole thing...but damn, they really are brilliant!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous "Lexicon" Guy,

Quit beating off to your dictionary plus thesaurus and learn how to truly write something of your own, and have it actually makes sense. You are without a doubt, a Wanna-Be-Elitist prick who just isn't bright enough to get how wearingly dull and transparent you are! Hahaha....get a life buddy!

Anonymous said...

"Hahaha....get a life buddy!"

Not bright, nor elite, wanna-be, prickly, and most assuredly not your buddy. Neither is life a thing to be gotten.

Surely to be as dull as possible is how one writes to transparently expose non-actors lying through their teeth to deceive freelancing huckster and gambling editors.

For their act, however brilliant or self-degrading, Jeff and Megan are suited for damnation and deserve no sympathy, for their act is a menace to the standard of content provision the NYT has set.

Anonymous said...

Tell us, @2:41AM, does the proper, authentic elite prick beat off to a stash of Jennifer Love-Hewitt and Scarlett Johanssen, rather than to a commoner's warehouse of literary devices?

And, are not verbal abuse and fake apologies right off the PR manual and meant to silence by intimidation and worse?

Anonymous said...

to previous:

What an improbable pairing.
More likely a vintage clip of the young Johanssen and Kissinger.

Anonymous said...

hey - you deleted all the comments from the real jeff ragsdales. all of us is mad. we will verbally abuse you in public