Wendy Ruderman, one-half of the Daily News‘ Pulitzer-winning duo whose work has come under scrutiny by the Philadelphia Inquirer, took to Facebook today to rebut allegations she and partner Barbara Laker behaved unethically during the reporting of the “Tainted Justice” series on police corruption.
“I’ve been advised over and over again NOT to speak out or go on Facebook or Twitter,” she wrote. “But to sit quiet, at least for me, feels cowardice and wrong.”
Ruderman made several points in her posting:
• She says that gifts she gave a source and his family on the "Tainted Justice" series were given well after the reporting appeared — after she and Barbara Laker had won a Pulitzer for the series, in fact.
The stuff I gave Benny (fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner, a foot scooter for his son's birthday, small gifts (like two Matchbox cars) for Benny's kids at Christmas. ALL of that came many, many months after Benny told us his story. In fact, after the Pulitzer
A journalist would have cut Benny loose after the first story, after we "milked" him for all the information he had over a taped hours-long interview in December 2008. But the human being in me felt guilty. I felt I had a responsibility to make sure he was ok and more importantly, that his family was ok, his kids. Benny signed up for this. His kids did not.
Why this matters? Because the Inquirer story quotes investigators saying "Naomi," a witness who complained of being sexually attacked by a Officer Thomas Tolstoy, told them that the Daily News reporters had offered similar gifts in exchange for her story. That created the possibility, officials said, Naomi's story was created in order to gain financially. Ruderman and Laker's confession of buying gifts for another source, critics suggest, bolsters Naomi's story.
• She disputes how the Inquirer used a quote from the book, Busted, that she and Laker wrote about the "Tainted Justice" series.
Here's the line in the Inquirer story: "Ruderman wrote that `At my weakest moments,' she came close to giving the informant money." The Inquirer story paraphrases the quote rather than use the full quote, which is, on page 218 of "BUSTED:" "At my weakest moments, Barbara stopped me from giving him money." The second part of the quote is crucial and I believe it was left out because it did not fit in the Inquirer's narrative that Barbara offered cash to Naomi.
• She explains why she and Laker didn't share a tape of their interview with Naomi with the Inquirer's reporters:
The Inquirer article states that we "declined" to give the reporters a tape of our interview with Naomi. That is inaccurate. We explained to the Inquirer that we may still have a tape of our interview with her. We immediately dug up Barbara's raw notes from her interview with Naomi and a transcript of the conversation. We were instructed by our editors to give those materials to the in-house attorney for both papers. It was our understanding that those notes would be presented to Bill Marimow. We explained that we could not locate the tape - a tape from summer 2009. If the attorney did not present the notes to Marimow, why not? Was it an oversight? If he did, why did the Inquirer decide not to mention the notes/transcript. Instead the story says we "declined" to give them a tape, suggesting we have something to hide.
• And she asks why the Inquirer left out exculpatory information.
The Inquirer also fails to mention that the company did an internal review of the allegations and found them baseless. (Publisher Gerry) Lenfest has publicly said, "We stand behind the work of our reporters and have seen no sound evidence that their work was anything but thorough, accurate and ethical." He later said the company "did conduct an internal investigation on the FOP's [and Naomi's] claims against Ruderman and Laker and were satisfied that the claims were not substantiated." That did not appear in the Inquirer story. Why?
Seems like there will be much more to come on this story.
The full Ruderman post: