Writer Fired for Uncertain Sources
PHOENIX (AP) _ An Arizona Republic columnist fired on suspicion of making up sources quoted a ``Jennifer Morgan″ four separate times and gave a niece’s phone number when asked for a number for a man she profiled, the newspaper said Tuesday.
The newspaper said it fired Julie Amparano after being unable to find people quoted in columns or stories, including Morgan and a man depicted as a white racist who learned he was part-Hispanic.
In a statement Tuesday, Amparano insisted her sources were real and said she was given less than 24 hours to produce information requested by the Republic to help verify her subjects.
The Republic announced the firing Saturday in a brief front page note to readers, saying editors were unable to substantiate some of her quoted sources. Tuesday’s edition carried a detailed explanation.
Amparano, who worked at the paper for five years, began writing a thrice-weekly column last month. Her ``Conversations″ column focused on people with compelling tales.
The paper said an investigation also failed to verify the existence of a gay man living in an intolerant neighborhood, an upscale woman visiting a downscale restaurant and 16 others quoted in the 17 columns she wrote.
A July 19 column quoted a Jennifer Morgan complaining about advertisements at her dentist’s office. On Aug. 11, Amparano quoted a Jennifer Morgan, identified as an attorney.
Twice in 1995, the paper said, Amparano quoted individuals named Jennifer Morgan in news stories, one described as an owner of an answering service and one an advertising representative. The paper couldn’t verify the existence of any of the four.
The paper said Amparano provided a number for a Luis Adler Varela, identified in a column as a racist who learned when he was 25 that he was half Hispanic. However, Senior Editor David Fritze said he learned the phone was listed to Amparano’s niece.
Republic Managing Editor Julia Wallace said she confronted Amparano with the niece’s name and fired her immediately when Amparano denied knowing her.
``I believe that the demand was unfair from the onset,″ Amparano said.
Her lawyer, Stephen Montoya, said Amparano had used her niece as a source in a columns to find out what a child would think. The niece’s number was among a list of numbers Amparano gave to the Republic but was not given as the contact number for the racist, he said.
The newspaper said editors began looking into Amparano’s sources last week after a senior staff member reported rumors that she made up some parts of her column and that it was possible other media outlets were investigating.
The paper said 65 people were identified in the columns. The editors had questions on about 40. Of those, 24 had uncommon names and were checked out. Four were found.
Amparano told editors the sources were found while she was out in the community _ at parks, bookstores or on street corners _ and couldn’t be readily traced, the newspaper said.
``I feel embarrassed and chagrined about this,″ Deputy Managing Editor John D’Anna said. ``In hindsight, the fact we were getting something that was so new and different and fit so well into our goals, yeah, it clouded my judgment.″
Amparano’s previous employers included The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. Bill Schiffmann, an AP editor in San Francisco who supervised her there in the 1980s, said Tuesday, ``There were no problems that I can recall.″ Her supervisor at the Journal in the early 1990′s, Roger Rickless, told the Republic, ``There certainly were no ethical issues (that) arose during that time.″
Last year, two Boston Globe columnists resigned after reports some column material was made up. Patricia Smith admitted to inventing characters in four columns. Mike Barnicle, long the newspaper’s marquee columnist, resigned amid suspicions he fabricated a column about two children with cancer.