Friday, January 07, 2011

'I Bet He'll Go Far'

If making up stories and fabricating quotes is the standard, then yes, he'll go far. A plum spot at the New York Times can't be far off. Unless, of course, the taint of Jayson Blair still lingers (H/T).
Rob Sgobbo, a young writer for the New York Daily News, has had a freelance story he wrote yanked from the Village Voice's website. He apparently fabricated sources and lied about his reporting. (Update: the NYDN has canned him.)

Voice editor Tony Ortega says in an editor's note that in a story examining for-profit colleges (here's the cached version), Sgobbo "invented a character, 'Tamicka Bourges,' who claimed she had amassed a large debt at Berkeley College without obtaining a degree."
A classmate of this fraud from Columbia waxes nostalgic.
The last time I thought about Rob Sgobbo — before he was caught fabricating characters and quotes in a piece he wrote for the Village Voice this week — was on the day we both graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism last year. Sgobbo was bounding up the stage at the end-of-the-year awards ceremony after winning an award for his education reporting. I didn't, and don't, know Sgobbo personally — I know him mostly as that friendly guy in the student lounge who always seem to dress really well — but I remember thinking at the moment, "I bet he'll go far."

I'll explain: There are two types of people who do especially well in journalism school. The first are the good reporters and/or writers, the ones who always seem to turn in the best stories time and time again. The ones whose work professors always praise as examples for the rest of the class to emulate. The second are the personalities, the popular kids who amass friends, the ones everyone seems to like. If you know journalists at all, you know it's rare to find someone who falls into both categories. There are a lot of socially-awkward, surly reporters who do great work; and there are a lot of happy, well-liked journalists who produce mediocre stuff.

On that cold, rainy day in May, there was no doubt Sgobbo fell into both categories. As he climbed the stage at the award ceremony — something only the best student-reporters got to do — a large crowd cheered him on. The guy had obviously made a lot of friends.
He probably had the best weed or something. Maybe put out for the right editor, IYKWIMAITYD.

Now it gets funny.
My guess is that Sgobbo is as confounded about his actions today as the rest of us are. Sometimes people do things — and, yes, journalists are people, too — we know are wrong, things we understand will catch up to us later, even if we can't admit it at the time. That doesn't excuse what Sgobbo did, and he has, and will continue, to pay the price for his actions. But I bet that even as everyone piles their well-deserved scorn upon him, in the end, no one will be harder on Sgobbo than Sgobbo himself.
Right. And it won't be long long until there are books and movies about him. Maybe Stephen Glass can write the screenplay.

This chump is history at the NYDN, but here's some of his, ahem, journalistic legacy that has yet to go down the memory hole. Used to be a time when these kids would work their way up from the Podunk Press to the big city papers, but I guess these days a flashy smile is all you need to impress the hiring managers.

Mysteriously his Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages have gone down the memory hole. I guess being exposed as a two-bit fraud will do that to a guy. To no surprise he's still listed as a HuffPost blogger. He fits in perfectly with their "journalistic" standards. Here's his bio.
Rob grew up in Princeton, New Jersey where he would often ditch school to attend gallery openings in Chelsea at the ripe old age of 16. After attending Haverford College, where he received his BA in Politics, he moved to the East Village. Committing himself to two years with Teach For America, Rob divides his time traveling to the South Bronx and freelance writing. Some of his interests include traveling to dangerous places in Eastern Europe, photographing ugly dogs in Tompkins Square Park and playing with his new frozen margarita machine.
Hope those margaritas are tasty tonight.

1 comment:

JammieWearingFool said...

I knew he would go far when he won the Dan Rather Award for reporting in college.