Evidence Suggests E&P's Mitchell Intentionally Misled Readers

August 27th, 2006 9:42 PM

Based upon the facts and previous statements and articles, it appears as though Editor and Publisher Editor Greg Mitchell may have intentionally misled readers when he allegedly came clean regarding a lapse in journalistic ethics early in his career.

The facts seem to indicate he was a 21 year-old paid professional journalist, not the 19 year-old intern he allowed readers to believe. Mitchell has also previously acknowledged relevant facts he managed to get wrong in his mea culpa as highly memorable events.

Given the additional discovery that he has now gone back three years after the fact to alter the article's lede, thereby reinforcing errors that diminish the significance of his lapse, some may find it difficult to conclude Mitchell's misreporting was anything other than an intentional act.

Since the press seems to be in full-disclosure mode these days, I want to finally come clean. Back in 1967, when I was 19 and worked for the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette (now the Niagara Gazette) as a summer intern, our city editor asked me to find out what tourists thought about an amazing local event: Engineers had literally "turned off" the famous cataracts, diverting water so they could shore up the crumbling rock face. Were visitors disappointed to find a trickle rather than a roar? Or thrilled about witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime stunt?

I never found out. Oh, I went down to the falls, all right, but when I got there, I discovered that I just could not wander up to strangers (even dorky ones wearing funny hats and knee socks) and ask them for their personal opinions, however innocuous. It was a puffball assignment, but that wasn't why I rebelled. I just could not bring myself to do it.

It's been documented that this event did not take place in 1967, the water flow to the Falls was re-directed from mid-June until late November in 1969. h/t lgf

The IJC recommended to both countries that American Falls be temporarily dewatered to facilitate a timely and thorough study. The governments agreed, and on June 12, 1969, a rock cofferdam stopped the flow over American Falls. The Falls remained dry until November 25, 1969, when a backhoe removed the cofferdam.

That event was, by Mitchell's own admission, a "once-in-a-life-time event." From an Internet posting, still available on line, it seems Mitchell was born and bred in the area of The Falls and also placed great significance in his first job as a professional journalist with the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette in the late sixties. Obviously, it doesn't get much later in the sixties than from June to November 1969. Note below that, in 2005, two years after writing the mea culpa piece, he was not characterizing his tenure at The Niagara Falls Gazette as an internship. Evidently he was also vested in the paper enough to continue to follow it, ultimately writing of it in 2005 as per the link directly above.

It turns out that he was born and bred here in the Falls, and that his first writing gig was at the Gazette, as was detailed a few weeks ago in a column by Don Glynn for that paper.

"You never forget your first newspaper job -- especially when it's the only one you've ever had -- and in my case that's the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Gazette, at the tail end of the 1960s when it was still owned by Gannett," he wrote. "It's now known simply as the Niagara Gazette, but it's lost more than just part of its logo."

Mitchell's age is consistently documented about the web - from the Feb. 04, 2002 E&P announcement of his promotion:

"I'm looking forward to building on our editorial progress of the past two years," Mitchell said, "and I have no doubt it will continue."Mitchell, 54....

Mitchell was 21 at the time of the ethical lapse and by his own admission performing in his first job as a paid journalist. Given that Mitchell has now been discovered to have gone back and altered the lede for the article, in a manner that magnifies apparently incorrect facts that minimizes his culpability for the ethical lapse, it's difficult to conclude it's a simple case of misremembering the facts and events in question. Said altering of the lede three years later when the piece became topical again is a violation of journalistic integrity, if not ethics, in and of itself.

Mitchell has a reputation as a harsh critic of both big media and blogs, advocating that Journalism must be the reporting of facts to counter the perception of bias.

Well, going back to when I was in j-school, we always talked about the myth: "There's no such thing as an objective reporter, but there are facts." I mean if we want to throw open the question of whether there are facts, then we're really in trouble. But there are facts, there are things that happen....

Greg Mitchell was born and bred and continues to live in the area of a notable American landmark, The Falls. Its diversion was hardly a passing event for Upstate New Yorkers. As Editor of E&P Mitchell frequently attends seminars and grants interviews which sometimes call for him to reflect on his career going all the way back to its beginning.

Given Mitchell's alleged appreciation for getting the facts right, that he managed to get two significant facts, previously acknowledged as exceptionally memorable, wrong in his mea culpa, it looks increasingly more like a half-truth designed to limit his exposure to criticism for his actions. Perhaps he wanted to have it both ways, retaining the ability to criticize others, while somewhat acknowledging his earlier failure in that regard.

And it's now been discovered that Mitchell has gone back and altered at least one other controversial article as well. Many reliable bloggers adhere to a standard higher than that.

Perhaps the highly visible and overtly liberal critic of media, new and old, has spent too much time applying his often critical eye to the work of others, instead of his own.