By: Joe Strupp
Just days after the Los Angeles Times had to admit being duped by fake FBI documents for a story about rapper Sean “Puffy” Combs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has revealed, in an inside page apology, that it published false information about a woman purported to be a victim of homelessness.
In the Page 2-A note, Editor Arnie Robbins and Managing Editor Pam Maples stated that the woman apparently gave a false name, age, and other information. Following a review by the newspaper, it was determined she also had a past history of fraud and even criminal behavior.
“On the front page of last Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we published the story of a woman identified as Virginia Gillis. She was featured in an Easter story in which she described in detail a past of victimization, homelessness and despair followed by recovery and repair,” the note, published March 30, stated in part, “We have since learned that a number of the details in that story were inaccurate. Further, our verification procedures were not followed during the reporting and editing process. In short, this story did not meet our standards for publication.”
The note revealed that the woman’s real name is Pamala Brown and she had been the subject of outstanding warrants for violating probation related to bad check writing and forgery, as well as a DWI and other traffic violations.
“We apologize for this journalistic breakdown. We value the trust you place in us every time you pick up the Post-Dispatch or log onto STLtoday.com, and we understand that incidents such as this put that trust at risk,” the note added.
The apology did not specifically name the reporter who wrote the story, Tim Townsend, or indicate if he or anyone else would face disciplinary action.
Townsend and Robbins could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.