NEWSROOM STRESS, PART ONE: A series of articles and multimedia about veterans of The New York Times who have committed lies, or been charged with them, after leaving the Times.
Early one afternoon in the summer of 2007, Melvin Lee Schmaltz, a retired 20-year veteran of the New York Times, headed out to a strip club in the seedy New Jersey neighborhood where he had settled after leaving the Times.
This particular strip club sits in the shadow of a bingo hall in a section of town called the Rag City. By day, the area, littered with Dr. Pepper cans, looks depressed but not menacing. By night, it becomes, in the words of a local meter maid, “like a newspaper recycling bin.”
Mr. Schmaltz did not like to venture outside too far. But, plagued by nightmares about an editor that always killed his lead, he often needed coffee to think clearly. And so it was that afternoon, when, seized by a gut feeling of lurking danger, he slid falsefied divorce papers under his jacket — and tucked himself inside The Cat’s Meow.
Mr. Schmaltz lied that afternoon to a dancer named Kate. He said he was divorced and had the papers to prove it. He wanted to marry Kate, but first he wanted to prove to her that he was not married — even though he was.
A local grandmother said she felt sorry for Mr. Schmaltz. She knew he had fallen in love with a stripper.
Nonetheless, Kate was not fooled by Mr. Schmaltz, and a local grocery store rag soon reported: “NY Times Veteran Can’t Fool Pole Dancer.”
Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Miami: “Family Blames Times After Son Cheats On Exam.” Irvine, Calif.: “Ex-Reporter Charged With Tax Evasion Testifies About Newsroom Stress.” Portland: “Ex N.Y. Times Editor Suspected in Two Loan Frauds, Credit Card Ring.”
Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the Times newsroom for the journalists, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of cold lies and cheating hearts.
The Scrooge Report found 121 cases in which veterans of the Times falsified personal documents, including income tax reports, credit card applications, and employment history. In many of those cases, newsroom trauma and the stress of deadlines — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Retired New York Times reporters and editors lie and cheat at a higher percentage than most Americans, according to a recent study on retired journalists.
Not only were the Times alumni found to fudge on important documents, but the 121 cases of criminal behavior were perpertrated against the journalists’ parents, wives, and children.
“It’s a crying shame,” said one victim. “These people are supposed to have been trained in getting their facts straight, and yet, even though no one ever questioned their integrity at the Times, they are cheats through and through.”
A local official wonders if the Times can ever be trusted again. The papers’ newsroom ethics must have set the journalists up for further lying after their careers, Bob O’Conner said.
“I had a hunch those Times people would use their unethical reporting in the real world,” Mr. O’Conner said. “They were trained liars, and now they go out and act all crazy with their expertise in lying.”
Note: The NY Times recently ran a front page story as part of a series on Iraq and Afghanistan war vets in which the implication is that there is a homicidal trend for military people once home in the U.S. “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles” is an example of an editorial staff gone mad, assigning a story based on a biased assumption, and signing off on the story intentionally made to fit the assumption.
Fact is that veterans of the U.S. military are less likely to commit crimes than the average Joe. Fox News did an investigative report on the subject and found that the NY Times premise was wrong. Military men and women are not more prone to homicidal tendencies or of a significantly higher number to warrant special coverage. The above “story” is dedicated to our U.S. military…and the pursuit of truth.
– Alexander is the founder and executive editor of The Scrooge Report, a publication aimed at eying the world with a bright light.