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.