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Globe Details Columnists’ Dismissal

June 22, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ Nearly three years ago, editors at The Boston Globe editors first saw evidence that columnist Patricia Smith had fabricated people and quotes.

But she was given a second chance, in part, because Globe Editor Matthew V. Storin was concerned that the paper had never really confronted lingering accusations that fellow columnist Mike Barnicle had also included false information in his pieces.

A day after announcing that 364 of Barnicle’s columns had been reviewed and met professional standards, the Globe on Sunday ran a lengthy article detailing the events that led to Smith’s resignation Thursday.

Smith, 42, a finalist earlier this year for a Pulitzer Prize, admitted she made up quotes and people in four columns this year.

When questions arose in 1995 about the veracity of some of Smith’s columns, Storin _ the paper’s editor since 1993 _ didn’t ask her directly whether she had fabricated material, in part because of similar accusations about Barnicle’s work, Storin said.

``I knew going way back that people said Barnicle made things up ... To the best of my knowledge, the paper had not addressed the Barnicle questions head on,″ Storin said. ``I had this very talented black woman ... How then can I take action against this woman under this circumstance?″

Storin chose instead to discuss the ``rules of the road″ with Smith, Barnicle and another columnist, Eileen McNamara. He also implemented a more formal editing and monitoring procedure for columnists, he said.

The monitoring involved the writers providing editors with information on people named in columns. Globe editors acknowledge the information was taken on its face as proof of truth, without further investigation. Over time, the scrutiny eased and editors relied once again on trust, Storin said.

Storin also said that after the talk with Smith, ``the quality of her work seemed to suffer.″ But the next year, in 1997, she won the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

The Globe maintains the work included in those submissions did not have any fabricated material.

The Globe also reported on a 1986 incident when Smith was an editorial assistant at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Errors in Smith’s review of an Elton John concert _ plus the fact that her press tickets hadn’t been picked up _ generated suspicion she had fabricated the review. Smith said she went to the concert, and there never was an official finding that she didn’t.

The Sun-Times published a correction about song titles and the singer’s clothing, and barred Smith from writing for several months.

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