News next: a journalism teacher's diary

January 24, 2011

Lying has consequences: a cautionary tale

Robert Sgobbo will never eat lunch in this town again.

I was getting my Blackboard up to date for my j-school class and testing the links to on-line articles I thought students would find useful. When I clicked on one about the author Jonathan Kozol‘s current thoughts about the neighborhood schools he wrote about years ago in two books, this is what came up.

Article Removed

The Daily News has removed the article that was linked here because the writer, Robert Sgobbo, a former News freelancer, has admitted fabricating sources. As a result, we don’t believe our readers can rely on the accuracy of any of his work.

Sgobbo graduated from the Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism last year. His classmates were sure he’d go far. Soon his byline was appearing regularly in the Daily News and the Village Voice.

Then on Jan. 5, The Voice published this:

The article “For-Profit Blues” was removed from the website after the Voice learned that Sgobbo had invented a character, “Tamicka Bourges,” who claimed she had amassed a large debt at Berkeley College without obtaining a degree.

We first learned that there might be a problem when Berkeley College denied that one of its spokespersons, Kelly Meisberger, had spoken to Sgobbo. Berkeley later added that it had no record of Bourges as a student. At about the same time, the GAO called to inform us that there was no spokesperson there named “Matt Fraser,” whom the story quoted.

TCI College president Bill Talbot adds that Sgobbo invented material about his school as well, including a nonexistent student and spokesperson.

The Voice apologizes sincerely to Berkeley College, TCI, and the GAO that this false material appeared in our education supplement,

Tony Ortega
The Village Voice

Put Sgobbo’s name into Google now and you’ll find more notices like the one from the News saying his articles have been taken down because the publications he wrote for no longer consider him reliable. Even the pieces he wrote for a local blog at Columbia are gone–though without the shaming notice. All that remains of his work are stories about his fabrication and his downfall.

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