Latest Credibility Scandal: Indy ‘Star’ Columnist Resigns

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By: Joe Strupp

As newspapers grow more sensitive about their credibility, another scandal has hit the industry. Mike Freeman, the former New York Times sportswriter and newly named columnist at The Indianapolis Star, resigned his new position just days before he was to have started.

Admitting that he had lied on his application and on his resume about having graduated from college, Freeman quit the columnist post on Friday, according to Star (Click for QuikCap) Editor Dennis Ryerson. The paper had announced he was to have started today, Jan. 12.

“The Star is committed to operating with high ethical standards,” Ryerson said in a note to readers posted Friday on the Star’s Web site. “We recognize credibility issues have confronted our industry, and we want to be a leader in addressing those issues.”

Sportspages.com first broke the story on Friday after Freeman told the Web site’s editor, Rich Johnson, that he had left the paper. “I don’t know how it came about, but he fessed up to us,” Johnson told E&P Saturday. “He told me after he resigned.”

In a statement that first appeared on the sports Web site, Freeman apologized for lying and said he had never before deceived an employer. “Late last month I left The New York Times (Click for QuikCap) to take a column position at The Indianapolis Star. While in the process of interviewing for the position, I filled out an application form and stated I was a graduate of the University of Delaware. I also, for the first time ever, stated this fact on my resume,” the statement said, in part. “These were lies. I was at the university for four years but in fact did not graduate. This was a terrible and unforgivable manipulation of the facts and I have resigned from my newly accepted position as columnist for the Star. It was the only time I have told such falsehoods and no other deceptions have ever appeared in any of my newspaper stories or two books at any time in my 16-years of practicing journalism. Nevertheless, the information I gave the Star was wrong and I will be punished with the loss of my newspaper career.”

Neither Freeman or Ryerson could be reached for comment this weekend. Editors in the Times and Star sports departments declined to comment on the matter Saturday. It is not known if the Star has a college graduation requirement for employees.

Freeman, 37, had been a sports reporter for the past 10 years at the Times, where he covered the NBA and NFL, according to the Associated Press. He previously worked at The Dallas Morning News (Click for QuikCap), Boston Globe (Click for QuikCap) and The Washington Post (Click for QuikCap).

Freeman’s resignation came just three days after USA Today foreign correspondent and Pulitzer Prize finalist Jack Kelley quit that paper following allegations of fabricated stories, and less than a year after Jayson Blair was forced to leave The New York Times after committing a long list of deceptions, a situation that resulted in later departure of the Times’ executive editor and managing editor. Kelley’s resignation followed a lengthy internal investigation into allegations that he falsified stories. Although the investigation proved no evidence of wrongdoing by Kelley, he told colleagues that the situation had created a “hostile atmosphere” at the paper in which he could not continue to work.

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