“Marketplace,” KQED spanked for phony commentary by war veteran

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Marketplace retracted a commentary by Leo Webb, an Occupy Oakland protester who described himself as an Iraqi War veteran struggling to recover from his experience as an Army sniper, after bloggers at This Ain’t Hell did some basic fact-checking and labelled his story “BS.”

After looking into Webb’s story themselves, editors at Marketplace agreed. They replaced the commentary with an Editor’s note that read, in part, “Marketplace has an obligation to provide accurate information. That was not met in this commentary. It has been retracted and the text and audio have been removed from the web site.”

Webb’s commentary was an installment of “My Life is True,” a series of first-person narratives by people living on the edges of the economy. It was produced through an experimental project of the New America Foundation, and first aired on KQED in San Francisco.

Marketplace deserves credit for bringing more voices into its coverage of the economy, writes Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, but its handling of the commentary and the reaction to it reveal laziness in fact-checking and a disregard for standards of transparency in web publishing.

Wemple credits bloggers of This Ain’t Hell for investigating Webb’s claims, and for preserving a digital record of his account. The blog, written by military veterans, specializes in critiquing media coverage of veterans returning to civilian life, among other war-related topics. Yesterday they commended Marketplace for coming “clean” on Webb’s story, but described the reactions of KQED’s editors as “bullshit deception.”

“And . . . they wonder why we want to defund NPR with taxpayer dollars,” they wrote, without realizing, or fact-checking, a basic fact about who produces Marketplace. It’s American Public Media, not National Public Radio.