Correcting the Record: Stranger Editor Fired after Feature Story Found to Be Fabricated
Contact: Tim Keck
Seattle, Wash.—March 19, 2004—Christopher Frizzelle, The Stranger’s books editor, committed an unconscionable act of journalistic fraud in a feature piece entitled “The Liars’ Club,” which appears in the current issue of the weekly newspaper, an investigation by Stranger journalists has found. The egregious fabrication represents a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 12-year history of The Stranger.
Mr. Frizzelle, 23, misled readers and Stranger colleagues by submitting a piece that purported to detail a trip he had taken to New York, where he ostensibly interviewed serial fabricators Jayson Blair, formerly of The New York Times, and Stephen Glass, formerly of The New Republic, together in a bar. The Stranger has since discovered that Frizzelle fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and magazines. He altered photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere, or seen someone, when he had not.
He used these techniques to write about emotionally charged moments in recent journalistic history, thus making light of the anguish felt by staffers at The New York Times, once one of the most respected publications in the America.
As a result of these discoveries, Mr. Frizzelle is no longer employed at The Stranger, according to Stranger publisher Tim Keck. Mr. Frizzelle was unavailable for comment.
The revelations prompted Stranger editor Dan Savage to hold a town-hall style meeting of newsroom staffers this afternoon where he accepted blame for the breakdown of communication and oversight that allowed a Stranger writer to commit such an obvious act of journalistic fraud.
Mr. Savage spent much of his time at the nearly two-hour meeting responding to questions and complaints, often quite angry, about his management style, according to people who attended the session.
Several staffers also complained about Mr. Savage’s sartorial choices.
“You view me as inaccessible, arrogant, and fey,” Mr. Savage told the assemblage, ticking off a list he had compiled from his own recent newsroom observations. “You believe the editorial department is too hierarchical, that my ideas get acted on and others get ignored. I heard that you were convinced there’s a star system that singles out my favorites for elevation.”
“Fear,” he added, “is a problem to such an extent, I was told, that editors are scared to bring me bad news.”
Before opening the session to questions, Mr. Savage made a preemptive attempt to address whether Mr. Frizzelle’s sexual orientation—Mr. Frizzelle is gay—had played a role in his being hired away last fall from the now monthly Seattle Weekly to write about literary issues.
“Our paper is super-gay, and by all accounts Frizzelle appeared to be a handsome and well-endowed homosexual,” Mr. Savage said. “Does that mean I personally favored Christopher?” He added, a moment later, “Hell yes it did. But you have a right to ask if I, a gay guy from Chicago, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not even reading his feature before running it. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes.”
Also attending the meeting was Stranger publisher Tim Keck. Mr. Keck, who was chomping on grapes as he sat next to Mr. Savage, quickly interjected that he would not accept Mr. Savage’s resignation even if offered. “It’s true Dan’s a sucky editor,” Mr. Keck said, “but we’d be screwed without his [sex advice] column.”
Staffers leaving the meeting expressed optimism about the hopes of salvaging morale in the editorial department. “It struck me as an unusually raw, emotional, and candid session,” one said. “Tim and Dan didn’t exactly accept responsibility for what happened, but given what inveterate liars those guys are, even admitting the deception is a real achievement.”
Later in the day Mr. Savage announced the appointment of The Stranger’s new books editor, Christopher N. Frizzelle. A waiter and personal trainer, Mr. Frizzelle has no previous experience in the field of journalism. “He’ll fit right in around here,” Mr. Savage told his staff in an internal email.