Staff reporter fabricated sources in CW

A Crimson White reporter fabricated sources in several news stories dating back to Jan. 10 of this year, a review of the reporter’s work by Crimson White editors has found. The reporter has been removed from the paper’s staff in response to these findings.

Madison Roberts, a freshman majoring in journalism, quoted nearly 30 students, none of whom could be found in the UA student directory or on social media. Roberts admitted on March 13 to members of The Crimson White editorial board that she had fabricated the sources.

“I was overwhelmed and succumbed to a lot of pressure I’d been under,” Roberts said in an email Tuesday. “I did it because The Crimson White had become so important to me that I didn’t want to lose it.”

Roberts created names, years and majors for the sources. The fabrications were discovered when, on March 13, Roberts turned in two stories to editors for which she had fabricated every source, including a professor. The paper’s copy editors, while fact-checking the correct spelling of one of the fabricated students’ names, discovered that no such student existed. The news editors then checked UA directories for all of the sources in the stories. Top editors were notified, and Roberts was contacted immediately.

The falsification escalated in February 2013, the review shows. Since Feb. 20, three of Roberts’ stories used only fabricated sources.

“I made a mistake,” she said. “I own up to that and am accepting the consequences, but I did not mean to hurt anyone. I knew it could affect the CW as a whole, and I apologize to those I hurt.”

All of Roberts’ stories have been removed from The list of stories quoting sources who do not appear in the University directory or on social media can be found below.

Some students find University ‘Drop/Add’ period too short, Jan. 10

UA transportation services grosses $7 million, Jan. 28

On-campus residents must register guns, Jan. 29

Many Alabama graduates overqualified, unemployed, Feb. 7

Some students have difficulty ‘Finishing in Four,’ Feb. 7

UA Alum produces Super Bowl ad, Feb. 13

Dining Halls waste only 4.6% of food, Feb. 19

Nationally, women choosing workforce over marriage, Feb. 20

Some students question shift to suite-style, Feb. 26

Employers, students use social media to hunt for jobs, internships, Feb. 28

Bama Dining addresses overcrowding of dining halls, March 5

When it doesn’t ‘get better’: recent study shows 15% of college students bullied, March 7

Leading in today’s Crimson White:

Forensic Council to hold showcase before competition

Sports communication program to host Mike Hill

Grad student researches Haitian health

  • Jesse Smith

    I remember several of these stories being front page headlines. My question, why do you have a freshman on staff writing so many feature stories that make the front page? And how did you not see this coming?

    • Billy Whyte

      It’s not that unusual for a freshman on staff to have a lot of feature stories make the front page. Especially since freshman tend to be some of the hardest working, and most to prove of the writers on staff and often take more stories than most writers (not exactly an abundance of writers). But you would think there would be better fact-checking in place, especially feature front-page stories.

      But the editors are under a lot of stress to come up with and coordinate a lot of stories to run in the paper each week, it’s not that surprising to find that one writer could dupe the editors, especially on articles that seemingly just ask random student’s opinions. Really it’s just an overall unfortunate situation for the Crimson White and something I hope will be a strong learning experience.

      This is just I think from my experience as a current staff sports writer for the CW.

  • Caroline

    As a journalism student myself, I agree that it is never ok to fabricate sources.
    That being said, I think it is also important to focus on the fact that Roberts has taken responsibility for her actions, and obviously regrets them.
    In my opinion, a published apology and owning up to her mistakes speaks more to her character than her lapse in judgement in writing these stories. Also, speaking poorly of her is not going to help anything either. I hope the Alabama student body and the Crimson White can understand that.

    • Lt. Nikolai Rachenko

      In fact she should be made chief editor and given a large bonus.