by Goldy, 07/31/2009, 1:31 PM

She seemed nice enough, so at first I felt kinda sorry for Emily Heffter when the Seattle Times overtasked her with covering local politics. Then I got angry as her sloppy, irresponsible reporting in the race for WA-08 potentially cost Darcy Burner the election. (Yes, Darcy did indeed graduate from Harvard with a degree in Computer Science and Economics, Heffter’s refusal to understand how Harvard grants degrees notwithstanding.)

Now I’m just wondering why Heffter still has a job at all?

The information in this article, originally published June 24, 2009, was corrected July 31, 2009. The person Heffter interviewed by telephone, and who initiated the contact, was in fact Edward Seeto of Seattle. A previous version of the story referred to the source as Carl Hoeflick, owner of a Duwamish-area manufacturing company called Katskill Engineering. After an inquiry from a reporter from The Stranger newspaper who was trying to reach Hoeflick, Times editors determined that neither that person nor his business exists.

I suppose there could be extenuating circumstances, but for a journalist, isn’t this a fireable offense? I mean, either she didn’t check out her source, or she just made stuff up. Or a little of both. But regardless of motive or intent, either way she once again allowed a complete fabrication to influence public opinion in the midst of a contentious policy debate and election campaign.

And just so you know I’m not taking this out of context, Publicola’s got a link to the text of Heffter’s piece as originally published, and the non-existent person and business were quoted in the lede:

Jun. 24, 2009 — Seattle’s “head tax” costs Carl Hoeflick less than $1,000 a year — $25 annually for each of the employees at his Duwamish manufacturing company.

That’s not a lot of money, but still the tax infuriates him. He sees it as a sign the city doesn’t show small-business owners enough support.

“The amount is not significant, OK,” said Hoeflick, whose company, Katskill Engineering, makes gaskets for vehicles. “But it is the idea of the city sticking it to us, having no clue and having no concern. … It is an unnecessary burden on us.”

Yeah, but then again, any tax comes off as an unnecessary burden… when you don’t exist.

The Seattle Times credibility largely comes from the fact that it is the Seattle Times, and it doesn’t take too many incidents like this one to tarnish the reputation of all of its reporters. And Heffter, whether she’s making up sources or misrepresenting Darcy’s education or plagiarizing city websites or lying about being “physically dragged” out of a closed-door city council meeting… well… she’s certainly racking up more than her fair share of embarrassing incidents.

You’d think, with all those unemployed journalists out there, the Times could hire a better political reporter than Heffter. And possibly even one willing to work as cheap. That is, if the Times really cared about getting this stuff right.

35 Responses to “The unbearable lightness of being Emily Heffter’s source”

1. Daddy Love spews:

You can’t believe anything the Times prints anyway.

2. Darryl spews:

Wow! Just…wow.

3. Right Stuff spews:

Wow, a reporter made sh*t up? ……..C’mon, no one should be suprised. There’s bad apples in every bunch…

However, it was Darcy herself that claimed something that she was not…That was DB’s fault.

4. Roger Rabbit spews:

@3 No, it’s stupes like you who keep repeating the wingnut bullshit that Darcy isn’t something that she, in fact, is — a Harvard graduate in economics.

5. Roger Rabbit spews:

By the way, why doesn’t Cathy McMorris-Rodgers quit Congress to stay home with her kid? She’s a bad mom.

6. Roger Rabbit spews:

After this mea culpa by Times editor David Boardman,

“The Times erred seriously in not confirming the caller’s identity before the story was published. We require that the identities of all sources be verified before publication.

Accurate reporting is our stock in trade, and an important element of the trust you place in us every day. This was a breach of that trust, and we apologize[,]”

(quoted under fair use), I imagine Heffter got a royal chewing out from Editor Boardman.

7. Roger Rabbit spews:

As for Edward Seeto, the Times should ban him from their comment threads. After all, he lied to their reporter, so why should anyone believe anything he posts on their website?

8. bunny spews:

goldy, you’re misrepresenting what actually happened. it’s not as though “Carl” was conjured in Hefter’s mind. Don’t mislead purposefully.

9. rhp6033 spews:

The Times correction, which I read earlier, included the following:

“…Further research revealed that the person Heffter interviewed by telephone, and who initiated the contact, was in fact Edward Seeto of Seattle. Seeto is a frequent commenter on various Web sites, including seattletimes.com. He was the subject of a King County District Court anti-harassment order in 2005, an order sought by and granted to an official of the Seattle Monorail Project….”

Editor’s note July 31, 2009

What the “Editor’s Note” fails to say is how they confirmed the identity of source of the call which Heffter claims Seeto originated over a month ago. Without such detail, is it possible that this Seeto character is a convenient fall-guy to cover for the possibility that there is no source at all?

Also, is this Seeto character is posting comments on this web site? If so, I wonder under what name?

10. rhp6033 spews:

I should add the caveat that this is sort of the mistake I might make if I had the opportunity. I doubt I would ask anyone to produce ID to prove they were who they said they were, although I would probably ask for a phone number and e-mail address for follow-up.

But then, I’m not a trained professional journalist, and have never professed to be one.

11. bunny spews:

Right Stuff @3 – No, she didn’t just make stuff up. the writer of the post wants you to think that, however.

12. Goldy spews:

bunny @11,

That’s an interesting thesis, except for the fact that I clearly wrote:

I suppose there could be extenuating circumstances, but for a journalist, isn’t this a fireable offense? I mean, either she didn’t check out her source, or she just made stuff up. Or a little of both. But regardless of motive or intent, either way she once again allowed a complete fabrication to influence public opinion in the midst of a contentious policy debate and election campaign.

I had not seen Boardman’s extended note at the time I wrote this post, merely the shorter note appended to the revised article… a note I block quoted in its entirety. From that limited information I correctly deduced that either she made shit up, and/or that she didn’t check out her source, and that was what I posited, along with observation that either way, she misled readers on an important subject.

Really… you think you can deflect attention away from Heffter’s glaring error by inferring unfairness in my reporting on it? Pathetic.

13. Right Stuff spews:

@11
I was speaking to the general newspaper reporter “bunch”, a la Jayson Blair etc.

It does happen, reporters make sh*t up.

Dumb Bunny @ anytime…
bleat all you want…DB did it to herself. She was not a double major. She exaggerated her credentials (Microsoft Executive) again and got called on it…

14. mkv converter spews:

bleat all you want…DB did it to herself. She was not a double major. She exaggerated her credentials (Microsoft Executive) again and got called on it…

15. Troll spews:

Goldy is mistaken. The computer science department (at the time) required students to choose an area of specialization. Burner chose economics.

16. Roger Rabbit spews:

@13 Bullshit, bullshit, and more bullshit.

You are an idiot who thinks Jayson Blair is representative of reporters. You know nothing about journalism. You also know nothing about Harvard degrees. You are a know-nothing who knows nothing about anything except jaw flapping. When you flap your jaws, nothing comes out except noise. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

17. mark spews:

4 She probably cheated her way through like Ted Kennedy. Hell, Obama went to Harvard and look how stupid he has turned out to be. Ummm, uhhhhh, ummmm,ummmm,uhhhhh,uhhhh, oooppps teleprompter tips over… uhhhhhh,unmnnmmmmaahhhh.

18. Mike Jones spews:

The Stranger had an article on the WA 08 election history and I beleive they said DB wasn’t entirely truthful and they are a pretty left publication. I think it may have been good for DB to say she had a degree in CS with a spcialiszation in Econ.

And @17 you must be thinking of Bush who wasn’t to bright Obama is very smart, even if you claim aff.action, there no aff. action for the law review.

And All President use a teleprompter including Reagan.

19. Jane spews:

Yes, Darcy did indeed graduate from Harvard with a degree in Computer Science and Economics, Heffter’s refusal to understand how Harvard grants degrees notwithstanding.

———-

Talk about misleading characterization, this certainly qualifies. And it’s really quite amazing you’re still spinning this AND DB, Goldy. I have an idea if DB couldn’t get it done last November with EVERYTHING in her favor (well, except for the trumped up credentials), the third time would NOT be a charm.

20. Jane spews:

@1 You can’t believe anything the Times prints anyway.

———

They’re probably a lot better bet than your employer at Redmond, who can’t stay out of Brian Krebs’ cross hairs:

Clampi Trojan: The Rise of Matryoshka Malware

“Joe Stewart, director of malware research for the Counter Threat Unit at computer security firm SecureWorks, said Clampi appears to have spread to hundreds of thousands of Windows systems, since its debut in 2007.”

[http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/]

Maybe you should focus on that?

21. Lily spews:

Assuming she didn’t verify her source, she should be fired. Fact checking is required in journalism.

There are so many unemployed reporters who could do so much better than Emily Heffter.

22. Right Stuff spews:

@16 dumber bunny than yesterday.

My point, clearly stated, is that there are “bad apples in every bunch”. In the “reporter/journalist” bunch there are bad apples out there that Make Sh*t up. There is proof of this, and Jayson Blair is one of them.

Nowhere did I state he is representative of all journalists,… rather, he is representative of the bad apples in his profession.

Can’t lay it our any easier bunny.

23. Hesiod spews:

Even Nedra Pickler would be embarrassed.

24. Margaret spews:

Maybe she’s related to one of the editors or publishers. That thing about Darcy Burner was ridiculous.

25. notaboomer spews:

the discovery institute needs to hire emily heffter.

26. Douglas Watts spews:

As a reporter myself I can say that it is Journalism 101 that if there are any questions about how a political candidate describes which degrees they received from a university, you call up the university and ask them to check their alumni records for which degrees were awarded, and when, and what type of degree structure they have. The phrase “double major” is inherently confusing because many univs. offer a double major but it is not actually a separate B.A. or B.S. in both subjects. A phone call to the admissions or records office of the university would quickly clarify their particular degree-naming criteria and the student records would state exactly what type of degree(s) the candidate in question received.

Again, this is journalism 101.

27. John from Minneapolis spews:

Re: @17, I will never understand the wingers who try to make Obama’s use of a teleprompter into some kind of a fault. Jesus, every candidate who gives a speech on national TV does it, and has since at least the 1960s — including Reagan, as one commenter noted.

Anytime someone mentions the teleprompter in that way, I immediately deduct 25 IQ points from my armchair evaluation of them.

28. Seth spews:

Maybe Heffter has other, uh, “talents.”

29. Sharoney spews:

Then John (#27), you’ll have to include ace ABC talking head Mark Knoller, who never passes up an opportunity to mention on Twitter whenever President Obama is using a TelePrompTer (yes, that is the correct spelling)–as if anyone cares or as if it has any bearing on what he is saying.

I slapped him down and he defended himself by declaring that it was a “fact” and therefore worth reporting. I said it was his continuing EMPHASIS on the subject that was problematic and challenged him to recall whether he ever bothered to mention previous Presidents’ TelePrompTer use on his DC beat.

No response to my question. Not surprising in the least.

But Teh! Media! Is! Liberal! OMFGOhNoes

30. Charles spews:

I gotta say, Goldy: you have some grade A anklebiting trolls: dull, truculent blobs of unilluminated opinion; raspy, partisan harlots; humorless Party apparatchiks doubtless paid more than they are worth, but less than the minimum wage.

I corresponded with David Boardman, Emily Heffter, and Dean Lewis at the time of the incident. My resultant impressions of Boardman and Heffter were, as I explained to Lewis, that they “very likely skated through with Cs at a community college.” With this latest information, I wonder whether Heffter just imagined her education.

31. Mr. Baker spews:

This is THE worst porn EVER!

32. tom spews:

Maybe she can move to Bal’imore, work for the Sun, interview the guys on The Wire, and win a prize!

33. anon spews:

Burner’s characterization of her CS/econ degree is correct, backed up by the Harvard dean who oversaw her program.

At this point, this is like arguing someone who has a degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on skyscrapers (as opposed to a focus on ginormous bridges) doesn’t have an expertise in skyscrapers. Yes, they do.

This is just bad reporting. The dean of Burns’ freaking program says this degree is exactly what she says it is! Where does this reporter get off suggesting it’s not?

34. laughing dog spews:

I demand to see Emily Heffter’s birth certificate (so I can confirm my theory that she is the product of reverse eugenics).

35. bunny spews:

Goldy @ 12: You basically posted a hit piece against a reporter you have a clear vendetta against based on “limited knowledge”. I wouldn’t say your reporting was unfair. Stupid fits a little better.