Crimson yearbook addresses quote fabrication

Crimson yearbook addresses quote fabrication

The yearbook staff released the following statement today, addressing a yearbook club member’s public tweet announcing that she had fabricated some interview responses.

To the Manual community,

It has come to our attention that a quotation in the 2013 Crimson has been deliberately fabricated. Yesterday, a former freshman yearbook club member posted on Twitter that she had revised or made up people’s quotations, particularly in the People section. Yearbook club members are students who are not in the yearbook class and do not receive a grade for their work, but volunteer after school and have the chance to become staff members the following year. All club members receive training on proper reporting and interviewing procedures before they are able to work on the yearbook, but there may have been inconsistency in some club members’ training. Judging from this club member’s tweets, the problem is confined to one person in one section of the yearbook (with concrete evidence of only one fabricated quote), but this incident represents an embarrassing lapse in journalistic standards.

Our first priority is to present an accurate representation of the student body, the events and feelings of a particular year. We try to make sure that everything we write, from the main story to a quotation in a caption or folio, is accurate and representative of what you, the interview subjects, have to say. For someone to distort or misrepresent a person’s words is a betrayal of the trust of the student body, who count on us to tell your stories accurately. We understand that it is extremely frustrating to be interviewed (sometimes more than once) and then feel that you did not say what we said you did. For that, we cannot apologize enough.

As a part of our normal procedure, we get a written record for all of the interviews that take place. This means that even interviews that happen over the phone must be transcribed, in order for the validity of all the stories to be checked. The notes must be signed by the subject of the interview, as one of the many checks for each story, and if the interview is done over text or social media, the transcript must be saved.  All of the notes are turned into the public editor of the yearbook, whose principal job is to check notes and copy in order to make sure that the information is both accurate and congruent. The stories are also read by the copy director, who flags any of the stories that seem biased, slanted, or have any information that looks suspicious. The public editor and the copy director work together in order to try to make sure that all the stories in the yearbook match the interview notes that were received. Everyone, including club members, receives training on the proper procedures at the beginning of the year.

Despite these safeguards, some inaccuracies can slip through the cracks — each year, our goal is to cover each Manual student twice, which means that literally thousands of interviews are conducted by dozens of yearbook staff and club members, and it can be impossible to check every note or verify every quote with every subject. Stories also go through a number of drafts, which mean that editors are not able to see every single quote.There can also be some inconsistency over the training that club members receive, which we believe is part of the problem with the incident at hand — if a club member misses the initial meeting, or starts working on the yearbook later in the year, it can be difficult to catch up, making those club members more prone to making mistakes.

Still, that is absolutely no excuse for us to have so blatant a violation of journalistic principles. For the recent incident, we have talked to the individual who claimed she fabricated at least one quote that made it to print, and she will apologize personally to the people whose quotes she made up. But beyond this year, it certainly serves as a wake-up call for us — as we begin work on next year’s yearbook, we will review our policies on interviewing and be even more meticulous in our record-keeping, making sure each staff and club member understands and follows the procedures. Most of all, we will do our absolute best to impress upon everyone, from the top editors to the club members, that the Crimson is a journalistic publication by and for the student body. Because of the sheer amount of content we gather, there must be a certain level of trust between the writers and editors over the accuracy of that content, and violating that trust lowers our integrity as a publication and as a magnet.

We hope that anyone who feels they have been misrepresented understands that we tell our stories with the best intentions, and we hope that the problem does not detract from your impression of our yearbook as a whole. We certainly encourage anyone who believes their quote is inaccurate or fabricated to let us know (there is usually an editor in the J&C lab at any given time during the school day), so that we can know exactly where we went wrong, try to rectify the situation, and apologize to you personally.

On a happier note, we would like to thank the entire student body for the reception of our yearbook. We truly appreciate all the support and gratitude it received. Especially when we face problems like these, your enjoyment of our final product is what makes all our late nights and hours upon hours of work worth the effort. We hope that everyone can look back at Red String Theory and remember hundreds of moments, big and small, good and bad, moments that remind us even decades later that the ties between us are still strong.


The Editorial Staff of the 2013 Crimson Yearbook