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Probe Can't Confirm Sources in Freelancer's Stories for 'Wired News'

Editor & Publisher | May 9, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO An investigation into the sourcing and accuracy of news stories by a freelance journalist at a leading Internet news site concluded that the existence of dozens of people quoted in the articles could not be confirmed.

Wired News, which publishes some articles from Wired magazine, paid for the review of stories by one of its frequent contributors, Michelle Delio, 37, of New York City. It disclosed results late Monday.

The review determined that dozens of people cited in articles by Delio primarily during the past 18 months could not be located. Many of the people who were cited as sources and who could not be located had common names and occupations and were reported to be living in large metropolitan regions.

Wired News' editor in chief, Evan Hansen, confirmed those conclusions earlier Monday. "I wouldn't dispute any of that," he said.

[Just weeks ago, the Web site of Technology Review magazine retracted two articles by Delio, and an investigation found significant problems with more of Delio's pieces for the site. A third magazine, InfoWorld, removed some quotes from Delio stories after it could not confirm the existence of the sources.]

[Late Monday, Wired News said on its site that it "is not retracting any of these stories. Rather, we are appending notes to the stories, indicating what we have been unable to confirm about them and editing them, as noted, where appropriate. By keeping these stories posted and clearly marked, we hope that our readers can help identify any sources whom we cannot track down....Wired News will continue to review the remaining Delio stories in its archive and post notes and report findings as appropriate.]

Delio did not respond immediately Monday to a telephone call or e-mail from The Associated Press. She has said previously she never made up sources.

In a private e-mail Delio sent to Wired News executives last month and obtained by The Associated Press, she said she wanted to "present my side of this sad saga."

"I don't understand why my credibility and career is now hanging solely on finding minor sources that contributed color quotes to stories I filed months and years ago," she wrote. Delio said that among hundreds of articles she wrote for the organization, there "isn't one story that contains fabricated news."

Wired News and Wired Magazine are separately owned and do not share office space or staff, but Wired News publishes Wired Magazine's content online.

The review for Wired News was carried out by Adam Penenberg, a Wired News columnist who teaches journalism at New York University. Penenberg exposed fabricated articles in The New Republic by Stephen Glass in 1998 while Penenberg was a writer for Forbes.com. Glass was fired

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