A major Texas newspaper is making headlines of its own for firing the head of its Austin bureau after discovering he was apparently peddling “fake news.”
On Monday, Houston Chronicle Editor Nancy Barnes announced the resignation of Mike Ward, the Chronicle’s Austin bureau chief, after she confronted him over falsifying sources in his news coverage.
“Recently, another Houston Chronicle journalist flagged me with questions about the accuracy of a story written by veteran Austin reporter Mike Ward. Ward joined the Chronicle in 2014 after a long career with the Austin American-Statesman. Specifically, questions were raised about whether individuals quoted in one of his stories were real people.
Our own researchers, after an initial review, had difficulty finding a number of sources cited in Ward’s most recent reports.
Ward has insisted that his work was truthful, that his work involved real people, and that we would eventually find the individuals behind his “man-on-the-street” interviews. However, given the questions this review raised, he offered to resign and I accepted that resignation last week.”
The Chronicle’s decision to terminate Ward in such a public manner is a positive sign, but one has to wonder how many other writers are guilty of the same or similar offenses. Ward was, after all, the head of the publication’s Austin Bureau and was presumably involved in the hiring, firing, and mentoring of others at the paper.
Barnes promises a “full investigation” of Ward and a “full accounting of the findings.” That investigation should be expanded to question every individual at the publication.
Ward’s actions (and the actions of others like him) are the reason why President Donald Trump has called so many in the media fake news and why their publications have been hemorrhaging readers across the nation.
We’ve found at Texas Scorecard, there is a growing market of citizens appreciative for hard-nosed, fact-based journalism about state and local government. Those citizens are smart, savvy, and sophisticated enough to know when they’re being lied to.
As for the Chronicle, hopefully they learn from this lesson and raise their standards.