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Posts Tagged ‘Ian Shapira’

Ian’s Rationalizing (Or is it Bullsh-tting?)

WaPo‘s Ian Shapira appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday to discuss his recent heart-wrenching Facebook story involving a mother dying from a heart defect shortly after delivering her baby boy. Touching story. Genuinely sad. Legitimately interesting way to tell a story using Facebook. Shapira made a big point of asking permission of the family before he wrote the story. He told CNN host Howard Kurtz in no uncertain terms that he would not have written the story had the husband of the deceased woman said no.

But where Shapira’s rationalizing rang false involved a previous piece Kurtz asked him about on “Young Teachers Gone Wild” from 2008. Shapira claimed he “got permission” from the teachers before doing the story. But actually, he did not. He sought comments from the teachers – yes – and reasoned that getting quotes from them was the same as permission. But that’s not the same sentiment as the aforementioned story of the mother. Shapira would have written the story whether the teachers wanted it or not. Kurtz brushed right by this point.

Our point is, let’s just not confuse the two — or the sentiment that Shapira always asks his subjects for permission. Few reporters do.

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Readers Irked by WaPo Reporter’s Perceived Shallowness

The reporter’s editor had one emotionless reply for him: “Find the body.”

In a Sept. 2004 Metro story, Ian Shapira had authored a story about a homeless guy who turned out to maybe be not so dead. In today’s Story Lab, WaPo‘s Shapira recalls those tense moments of going out and trying to “find the body.” Well, he found it. Find out what happened here. As one reader remarks on Shapira’s story, “Quite the candid first-person essay.”

Maybe most telling is Shapira’s final graph:

I threw my arms up in the air, elated that I had not insulted his family, relieved that I had not published incorrect information; the other reporters in the bureau shook my hand, congratulating me on the discovery. I gave the hospital official the number for Reed’s relative/friend, so she would learn the news through more official channels. Then, I called my boss back. He didn’t seem thrilled or relieved. He just wanted me to get back to work.

Some readers are less than thrilled with Shapira. One wrote, “Ian is a ghoul – he threw his arms up, elated – at the death of a human being. You are sick! I don’t need to ask what you’ll be for Halloween.”

Another remarked, “Soooo, being right about the story was more important than the fact that Jimmy was dead? Sad, sad state of affairs.” And still another took it to religious proportions: “The kind and gentle Jimmy Reed passes away, while the vacuous and self-absorbed Ian Shapira lives on. Clearly, there is no God.”

FishbowlDC has contacted Shapira for comment. Should he provide one we’ll bring it to you.

> Update: From Shapira: “The piece makes clear that my elation was purely an expression of relief that the original story was accurate.”

Examiner Column Goofs Up Entire Premise

A question we should all ask ourselves: WWGD?
(What would Goofy do?)

In a column published Thursday afternoon about journalists not getting their facts right and “sifting facts from fiction,” Washington Examiner Editorial Page Editor Mark Tapscott completely goofs on who wrote the WaPo piece on the impending sale of TWT. It wasn’t WaPo media columnist Howard Kurtz who wrote about the rumored reporting process of the TWT sale, it was WaPo‘s Ian Shapira for the “Story Lab” feature.

Tapscott links to Shapira’s story, while saying it was by Kurtz. He also refers to “Kurtz’s last sentence” and mentions the word “stupid.” The sentence is, in fact, Shapira’s last sentence.

“But Kurtz’ last sentence points to the key point missed by so many conventional journalists – growing legions of readers would indeed prefer to see the “raw material at first blush” because they long ago stopped trusting what they get from “news organizations that make the calls and do the checks before publishing.” Or to put it in a more Clintonian fashion, it’s the transparency, stupid.

Anatomy of a Story on TWT Sale

hughes.jpgWaPo‘s Ian Shapira breaks down the story of the pending sale of TWT this afternoon in a Story Lab feature. What’s noteworthy: the conversation Shapira had with DCRTV’s Dave Hughes (pictured here), who explains how he came to “report” that TWT was “perilously close” to shuttering. Hughes wrote the item completely blind — as in, based on a completely unknown source who just sends him stuff blindly. Did Hughes think to check facts or call TWT? Nope.

After Hughes’s salacious item published, a TWT editorial staffer remarked to FishbowlDC: “The site looks like it was put together by a f–king third grader. For Christ sake, the guy wears a hoodie and a goatee. This is clearly not a journalist.”

An excerpt of Shapira’s story:

It turns out that Hughes’s reporting consisted of receiving an anonymous email. In an interview, Hughes, 52, of Reston, said he occasionally receives reliable tips about the Times from the same email account. Hughes said he has no clue who the source is. “I just get this source sending me this stuff blindly,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s a man or a woman. I just know the email address. I don’t know who it is. I get people like that all the time.”

Read the full story here.

Read a frighteningly spectacular 2006 FishbowlDC Interview of Hughes here in which he utters the word, “woof!” as it pertains to his beard and admits that he owns many, many pairs of camouflage pants. Check out Hughes’s hoodie after the jump…

Read more

WaPo Writer Outs Anonymous Source


In an absolute rarity, a source who insisted on anonymity phoned a WaPo reporter and asked him to identify her by name after the story had published. This is WaPo‘s story lab today in which Ian Shapira lets us watch journalism flip on its head.

Shapira felt “nervous” when he received the call from the female source so shortly after his story printed. He thought as many journalists do: What had he done wrong?

It wasn’t that at all. The source admitted she had upset her boyfriend and wanted her name back in on the record.

An excerpt:
In my ten years at The Post, this marked the first time an anonymous source called back after a story’s publication to request that we go back into the original story and insert his or her name. But I couldn’t go back and do that — it would alter the original article, changing the fact that the story’s main character has a girlfriend who had not felt comfortable being named in a Post article about him.

There’s a healing ending here. Read the full story here.

WaPo Rips Off Its Own Story

imitation_of_life.jpg As the expression goes, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. But what about when a newspaper imitates itself, what then?

Today’s WaPo Style section cover piece by Deneen Brown profiles a white D.C. teacher Frazier O’Leary and his AP English class. He’s is the very teacher and AP class that staff writer Ian Shapira profiled in a lengthy story last year in January 2009.

O’Leary is teaching the same AP English class at Cardozo High School that he was last year. Last year, Shapira’s story involved the class reading Toni Morrison’s A Mercy ; this year, Brown’s piece reports that O’Leary’s AP class is reading Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying, as recommended by the D.C. Public Library and the D.C. Humanities Council as part of “Big Read” sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mike Allen – a Founding Father?


Nah, Politico’s Mike Allen isn’t really one of the Founding Fathers. But reading a recent Facebook post by Politico’s James Hohmann, one might think so:

“Mike Allen is an American hero. My already immense admiration has grown exponentially as I’ve had the privilege to partner with him on a handful of stories, including one last Friday. This 8,000-word New York Times Sunday magazine profile is well worth the read — especially if you don’t know Mikey. He has one of the biggest hearts and smallest egos of any reporter I’ve known, yet he’s doubtlessly among the half dozen biggest giants in the national journalistic history.”

Mikey should at least give Hohmann a Playbook shout-out for that one.

In other, more negative, Allen news… WaPo’s Ian Shapira assesses Allen and the recent NYT tome on him. It’s not a pretty write-up.

Journo admits his sadness for Allen

An excerpt:
“By the article’s conclusion, I felt a bit sad, both for Allen and the future of journalism. I see the value in his distribution of stories to Washington’s big thinkers and power players, especially since they have little time to page through all the major publications themselves. But, given Allen’s experience and doggedness, wouldn’t it be better if he were working on longer-term stories or investigations that served the public good? In other words, is Playbook really the best use of Allen’s talents?”

Read the full Story Lab piece here.

Shapira to Source: ‘Wait! Please Don’t Hang up, Please Don’t Hang up, You Still There?’


WaPo’s “Story Lab” was a lesson in persistence today from reporter Ian Shapira.

The story he was working on was emotionally tricky; he had to find just the right methods to get the story. Who among us hasn’t begged into the phone, Please don’t hang up!?

Shapira first reached out on Facebook to the recent Pentagon shooter Patrick Bedell’s youngest brother, Jeffrey, former deputy attorney general for California and now a financial adviser in Sacramento:

Hi Jeffrey,
My name is Ian Shapira and I’m a staff writer at The Washington Post. I am now out in California and I am pulling together a piece about Patrick… I know this is a painful time but capturing your brother’s character most accurately is my central aim. I was hoping to talk with you by phone or meet up in person if possible today. There will be countless stories about your brother, all focused on the negative. My piece aims to take a fuller, more biographical approach, nuanced and factually accurate… Please call when you can or write back letting me know what you think and how best to proceed.
Again, I am sorry for your loss.
Best regards,
Ian Shapira
Washington Post

When that failed, Shapira called Jeffrey on the telephone. Click. Jeffrey immediately hung up, prompting the headline of this post.

Shapira did land his interview with Jeffrey.
Read the full post here to find out how.

WaPo Journo Sneers at Vanity Fair

adam-and-eve-in-the-creation-museum-monica-lam-2007.jpgWaPo’s Ian Shapira takes issue with magazines such as Vanity Fair coming into his home state of Kentucky and writing “glib” stories on it. He complains about the annual stories in May when outsider scribes come in and write on “the exotic Derby hats worn by well-heeled ladies at Churchill Downs.”

Today he strikes out at the “flashy” glossy for its “thinly reported” review of Kentucky’s Creation Museum by A. A. Gill, a contributing writer to the magazine as well as to The Sunday Times of London.

Read Shapira’s story here.

Read Vanity Fair’s story, “Roll Over Charles Darwin!”, here.

WaPo Journos Lunching With Ravindran

Don Graham has been holding journo lunch meetings for Vijay Ravindran, WaPo’s chief digital officer. According to Washingtonian, the lunches are being held to ramp up the former Amazon exec. on the business of news.

WaPo’s Liz Spayd, Joel Achenbach, Dana Milbank, Ian Shapira, Jose Antonio Vargas, Mike Wilbon, Jason LaCanfora, Dan Steinberg, Stephen Hills and David Plotz of Slate met with Ravindran at the last luncheon.

Most surprising is the one person that hasn’t hit Graham’s lunches… Check out Washingtonian’s Capital Comment blog for the full scoop.