Community news provider Journatic has been rocked by the back-to-back resignation of its new chief editor and the decision of the Chicago Tribune to indefinitely suspend the service as operator of its 90 TribLocal publications.
Editor Mike Fourcher, who only took over as editorial production manager of Journatic in May, announced his resignation on his blog this morning. He said he had “made numerous recommendations and attempts to refine how Journatic collects and reports news, [but] every attempt either fell on deaf ears or was thwarted by demands for the creation of more and more performance metrics.”
Fourcher came to Journatic from his Brown Line Media group of eight online neighborhood publications on the North Side of Chicago, which he continues to own but has stepped back from managing.
Hours before Fourcher resigned, the Tribune late Friday night suspended Journatic after the discovery of a plagiarized and partially fabricated sports story in one TribLocal publication.
“As a result of serious breaches of the Tribune’s journalistic standards, we have suspended indefinitely our use of Journatic as a third-party producer of editorial content for our suburban TribLocal publications,” Chicago Tribune Group Media President Vince Casanova wrote Tribune readers on chicagotribune.com.
The suspension comes amid an investigation by the Tribune into cases of fabricated bylines that originated on stories from Blockshopper.com, Journatic’s real estate news service, which later appeared in TribLocal. The fake bylines were first reported on the public radio program “This American Life.” A Journatic staffer, Ryan Smith, went to “This American Life” with his inside story of those incidents. Smith subsequently resigned from Journatic.
Journatic and its founder and CEO, Brian Timpone have been criticized by news media observers for relying on “offshore” editorial staffers in the Philippines who are paid a fraction of what journalists in the U.S. make. Timpone has countered that the Philippine workers only did data research, and that the writing and editing was done by higher-paid staff in the U.S.