Paige Wiser: Wrong on facts, right on damage control

June 10, 2011

Paige Wiser lost her job for fabricating details of a Glee Live! show last weekend. She didn't stay for the end of the show but wrote about the encore, which was different than she described. Wiser is a high profile Chicago columnist and critic - and is arguably the biggest name to have been fired for fabricating stories in Chicago media in recent history.

The comments on all the media blogs today range from 1) You suck, to 2) Who cares, to 3) Glee Live! sucks.

Listen, what Page Wiser did was indefensible.  But it's also worth noting that within the newsroom culture, a colleague may be lazy, miserable, or abusive (I'm looking in your direction, Edwards) and people will often look the other way.   However, the minute a journalist fabricates details of a story, it gives permission to the high-and-mighty to run them out of the building. 

If you think about it, protecting credibility is all we journalists have left. Public perception is gone (Are we above or below trial lawyers in public opinion polls?). Audiences are shrinking. Management has cut budgets and heaped on extra work on the already overworked. Salaries have been replaced with freelance stipends and pageview escalators. But even as every journalist complains about their jobs at the bar, they will all stand up against the tyranny of the lie.  Again, that's all we have.

Even so, you must give Wiser props for her damage control. She was wrong, she knows it and she apologized. Juxtapose her response to the response of Congressman Weiner, who after lying repeatedly to the media and his constituents, is still in office. Now, both of those offenses are completely different, but I'm just judging the damage control. It's about being in positions of trust and when you abuse it, how you respond.

I personally liked Paige Wiser's work. She added quirk to a newspaper that wasn't afraid to showcase it.  I think she was much more suited for column/commentary than review/reporting. But in this day in a newspaper newsroom, you have to do it all. Whether  you feel like Wiser's stories about the pressures of the new newsroom are accurate, it really does feel like another story might be brewing.

What are the side effects and implications of gutting newsrooms? In other words, what can be done with fewer people and resources? The same product?

B story: So Rana didn't have anything to do with the Mumbai terror attacks? But he was a part of staking out a Danish newspaper? Best part of this story: Rana lawyers say he can only get 15 years. Fitzgerald says bulllllllsh*t, he's getting 30. See, he's guilty on two counts, max 15 years on each. It will be interesting to see what the judge sentences. But it will probably be a while until he gets to sentencing, due to the 33 cases he has today. So much for a lazy summer, ehhh judge?

C story: I'm going to skip Blago trial as the C story (jury to begin deliberating) for this hard-hitter from the Trib: Thousands of injuries occur in bathroom each year.

Weather: How about a streak of 80s. Give me 80 for at least a week.

Sports: Homer alert! Adam Dunn hit one out of the park yesterday. It was a cheap one (barely over left field fence), but still... Don't look now people, but the Sox are 5 1/2 back.

Kicker: How To Do Everything hit the big time! Morning Edition featured the podcast by our fellow producers Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag. Here is their latest story, attempting to identify the worst liquor in the world. I'm featured in this segment. I'm the one who almost throws up.