Statement by Press Secretary Jenna Garland
ATLANTA – A story written by Maria Saporta has been removed from the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s website after it was revealed that Saporta had neither sought an interview nor any comment from the Reed Administration before publishing. The story, cross-posted on her personal website, contained unsourced statements and false claims, and its removal from the Chronicle site demonstrates that Saporta failed to meet basic standards of journalism.
The readers of the Atlanta Business Chronicle expect a journalist like Maria Saporta, who has lived in and covered Atlanta for many years, to have many sources and contacts. These readers also expect journalists to cite these sources, and if sources refuse to go on the record, to seek additional confirmation and verify all claims before publishing. The Chronicle’s readers were let down by Saporta’s piece, which was published near midnight on Wednesday, January 6.
Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office of Communications contacted David Rubinger, the publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, to express concerns about the factual inaccuracies and unsourced claims in the story.
Saporta responded with the following email, dated Thursday, January 7 at 5:49 p.m.:
David Rubinger let me know that you are upset that I didn’t reach out to you or Anne [Torres] on my Invest Atlanta article that posted late last night. I finished my reporting quite late, and I knew other media had the same information as I did, so I did feel some competitive pressure to write and post it. Honestly it was so late when I got the story together that I did not feel right reaching out to you at such a late hour. Also, the press release issued by the city on Craig Richard’s resignation had been released with your comments, and I assumed that was your position on the situation, which is why I quoted from it. But you know I always have an open door to run any response, comments, complaints, differences of opinion that you may have on anything that I write. While I was not able to get your perspective in the story I wrote late last night, I am happy to run your response in SaportaReport in full.
Several times, I have run your comments or those of Duriya or Tom Weyandt or anyone else in your administration when there has been an issue with a story that has appeared on the site. I extend that offer to you on this story as well. I’m always interested in making sure we present accurate and complete information. And when there are differences of opinion, I try to make sure we present the various points of view. I believe that’s the only way we can make genuine progress as a city. So, once again let me assure you that I welcome any response you might have.
By the way, happy new year to you and your family.
Mayor Reed offered his response in this email, dated Thursday, January 7 at 7:13 p.m.:
I have no desire to post a response in the Saporta Report as I am used to your blog’s biased reporting. My concern is that a story which did not include basic fact checking or a response from any member of my administration was published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a publication that matters a great deal in our city.
First, the story is factually inaccurate. For example, you claim that “Invest Atlanta officials” reviewed Mitch Powell’s resume and “realized he was ideally qualified for the position.” Which officials? Ideal by whose measure? No fair-minded journalist would publish such a claim without a source who was prepared to go on the record. At a minimum, the assertion calls for seeking the opinion of individuals who hold a contrary view. Second, you go on to make a wholly unsubstantiated claim about the length and content of a meeting between Craig Richard and me which you did not attend, even going so far as to state that “Mayor Reed had a copy of the information in his packet that he took with him.” This is false, but more importantly, how could you possibly know that unless you accept one individual’s very rosy view of what occurred. After you were scooped by another reporter, you chose to rely on your imagination and self-interested opinions to rush out a story in a paper of consequence.
This behavior is only worsened by your deliberate decision not to seek anyone from my Administration’s input. Accordingly, a reasonable remedy would be to publish our response in the Atlanta Business Chronicle in the same manner and placement as the story which undermined the paper’s commitment to the highest levels of professionalism and accuracy.
The Chronicle’s publisher decided to remove the story today, Friday, January 8, 2016.
Furthermore, after learning of the claims made in Saporta’s story, Craig Richard issued a statement emphasizing the inaccurate reporting and his appreciation for the opportunity to work with Mayor Reed and Invest Atlanta, stating, “There has been some false speculation in recent reports over the events surrounding my departure. I would like to reiterate that I was very proud of our work together at Invest Atlanta. It was an honor to be a part of such a great team and serve the City of Atlanta under the Reed Administration.” Craig Richard served the City of Atlanta well during his tenure. It is unfortunate that Saporta’s lack of diligence may reflect poorly on his accomplishments and his last days serving the Administration.
Saporta’s own email reveals it was a desire to compete with other news outlets that led her to publish the story without checking facts, and acknowledged the story did not offer a differing perspective. After such a long and productive career, this lapse necessitates reflection by both the publication and the writer.
Journalists are burdened with the responsibility to uphold the standards and ethics of their profession. This burden is the price of providing an essential service to our society. By any standard, Maria Saporta has failed to uphold these standards, disappointing the readers of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and anyone who appreciates the vital role of professional journalism.