Verdict Promised on 'LAT' Reporter Behind Flawed Chico State Story

By: Joe Strupp The Los Angeles Times will publish an editor's note "within the week" regarding reporter Eric Slater, who has drawn criticism for several weeks following a poorly reported story he wrote about the death of a college student, according to Times spokeswoman Martha Goldstein.

Word spread in the newsroom today that Slater had been fired, but Goldstein would neither confirm nor deny that report. "We will communicate as soon as we have a statement to make," she told E&P this afternoon. "At this stage, we have nothing to communicate."

Top editors at the paper spent an hour in a closed-door meeting to discuss Slater's future, according to several sources.

Calls to Slater, Editor John Carroll, and Managing Editor Dean Baquet were not returned Monday.

A March 29 story Slater wrote about the death of a college student in Chico, Calif., drew complaints and accusations of poor reporting, questionable sources, and factual errors.

Slater's story had followed up on the February death of Matthew Carrington, a student at California State University, Chico, who had died after a hazing ritual that included drinking up to five gallons of water.

In a March 31 correction, the Times apologized for a string of errors in the story, including mistakenly reporting that a fraternity pledge at a nearby community college had died of alcohol poisoning when he was only hospitalized, and that the city of Chico has a population of 35,000 when it is really 71,317.

"In addition, University President Paul Zingg was quoted saying the school would shut down its Greek system if problems with hazing did not abate," the correction stated. "Zingg made his comments to a group of 850 students and others, and his remarks were quoted in the local media. He did not speak with The Times. Also, although the article characterized the school as being well-known for its basketball program, its winning baseball program may be best known outside campus."

The problems did not end there. Observers ranging from Zingg to editors at the local Chico Enterprise-Record to, a media watchdog site, have spent the past few weeks hammering at the Times and Slater. Those and others have questioned whether students quoted anonymously actually existed and raised questions about whether he was ever at the Chico campus, which has more than 15,000 students.

"If he was here, he didn't do much reporting," Chico State journalism professor Glen Beske told the San Francisco Chronicle for Saturday's paper.

Slater responded to the complaints earlier this month in an e-mail "to friends and colleagues," which was posted on, among other Web sites. It read, in part, "I wrote the worst story in my 19-year journalism career the other day. I wanted to apologize to you directly." Slater also defended himself, saying he "would never make up a source -- not now, not ever."


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here