The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

12 May 2005

Liberal Sacramento Bee Columnist Resigns

Another One Bites The Dust

Griego Erwin Out After Internal Investigation

A major ethics scandal rocked the Sacramento Bee yesterday, after an internal investigation found hyper-liberal columnist Diana Griego Erwin had fabricated sources for a number of her columns.

After over two weeks of analyzing work by Griego Erwin, editors could not establish the identities of "people" she claimed to interview for stories.

Her resignation is especially significant as Griego Erwin's columns were often carried by papers across the country. In addition, she was a 1986 co-recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, while at the Denver Post.

It casts doubt on many years of work, usually featuring heartbreaking interviews with unfortunate people, victims of a mean-spirited, right-wing society.

It's surprising she wasn't caught long ago, as subjects often seemed cartoonish, or just a little too perfect to prove her sappy, emotional, leftist viewpoints.

A fawning examination of her work is found, ironically, at the Poynter Institute's site, which is dedicated to ethics in journalism:

Her winning columns that year (1990) took readers to the streets of
Orange County, delving into the stories most people never
hear; the places most rarely visit: a Mexican bricklayer navi-
gating bureaucracy at the Department of Motor Vehicles. A
homeless man, anonymous in life but not forgotten in death. A
gang member lamenting the murder of a child.

Now we're left to wonder, were these all fabricated tales?

Here's a typical sob story, from 1989:

The square of sidewalk marred by old bubble gum splotches
and a bicycle skid mark in front of Alpha Beta No. 172 in
Westminster is unremarkable except that it was kind of a
home to Hubert Creasy.

No one knows who put it there, but a handwritten card-
board sign now marks the spot where he sat in recent months:
P E A C E . ”

Dorothy Cole, a longtime Westminster resident, saw the
sign and remembered Creasy as β€œa real friendly, nice man.”

The real question is why her work wasn't red-flagged years ago. Were these based on stories already in the news, or were they entirely her own discovery?

Did editors in Denver, Los Angeles and especially Sacramento, look the other way for years or were they especially remiss in their duties?

One likely scenario: her reputation and history of major awards, put her in a position to be less scrutinized than would a rookie reporter, straight from journalism school.

Also possible: who wants to bust a fellow liberal, who does such a good job proving the meanspiritedness of the GOP and conservatives, three times a week? The Bee has long been one of California's most left-leaning daily newspapers.

Sacramento Bee Editor Rick Rodriquez had this to say today:

During our inquiry we found we could not authenticate the existence of several people even though they were identified by name, age and sometimes by the neighborhoods in which they were reported to have lived. We used extensive online database searches as well as old-fashioned shoe-leather work in our investigation over the past 2 1/2 weeks.

Griego Erwin has said throughout the inquiry that there was no fabrication of sources. When asked to provide confirmation, however, she was unable to do so to our satisfaction. She resigned citing personal reasons while still maintaining that her sources ultimately will be proved authentic.

It's amazing to see how many on the left are being caught up in these flaps, which quickly disappear from the headlines, while stories of conservative commentators being paid by the Bush Administration stick around for weeks.

Griego Erwin was a darling of the left, particularly in California, so I don't expect they'll want to focus on this too much today.

: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers!

Will the American Society of Newspaper Columnists uninvite Griego Erwin from their upcoming Texas national conference? From their site:

The conference is hosted by longtime NSNC officer Dave Lieber of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Dave has put together a program of great substance so that you can show your editors that your attendance will be helpful to both you and your newspaper.

The fabulous speakers include:

Pulitzer prize winner Diana Griego Erwin of the Sacramento Bee, whose columns sparkle with poetic use of language and wonderful story-telling techniques.

Pulitzer Prize commentary category juror Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute.


  • Excellent post! Check my homepage for additional analysis. This one has all of the elements of a typical MSM scandal - with Dan Rather type denials and even a Pulitzer thrown in.

    By Blogger The Cassandra Page, at 12 May, 2005 17:16  

  • This can't be true. A liberal making up quotes to support their point of view. I refuse to believe that at all. I can't believe I am reading this crappy blog. I am going back to reading the best of Jayson Blair, Walter Duranty, Jack Kelly, and the Jabet Cooke story about the 8 year old crack addict. I am tired of reading your fiction. I am going back to real journalism from now on. No blogs for me.

    By Blogger Brian, at 12 May, 2005 20:45  

  • Brian, reading your post, I'm a bit confused why you call Erwin "hyper-liberal." Because she expressed some compassion for a dead homeless man?

    And what is "right-wing" about bureacracy at the Registry of Motor Vehicles?

    By Blogger Derek, at 13 May, 2005 10:29  

  • Derek:

    Not every column fit a liberal agenda, but most did.

    Her style, not seen as much these days, was the "compassionate" leftist slant and she could be very partisan, but had a different way of approaching it, than you more commonly see now.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 13 May, 2005 11:05  

  • Another flaming leftist liar receives their come-uppence.
    Soon, there will have been enough shown up for what they are to build a museum!

    By Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box, at 13 May, 2005 22:37  

  • This is all so interesting in light of the Newsweek retraction. Having lived in Sacramento for the last 14 years, I have actually seen the distortions of Erwin. I worked at a restaurant in which two coworkers were the subject of an Erwin column, I think shortly after coming to Sac (Erwin that is). They had been arrested for "jay-walking" and one of the coworkers contacted Erwin. She (the contacting coworker) was always crying victim and generally a HUGE pain in the ass. Erwin wrote her story chastising the Police for their brutish overreaction and for arresting the girls. The whole column was basically a police bash. After the incident the other girl privately confided that the police officers were just citing them for jay-walking and that the other girl behaved so rudely and bombastic, insisting she would not take the ticket - because EVERYBODY JAY-WALKS - kept trying to walk away from the officers they were ultimately arrested. After realizing the column was so one-sided with no quest what-so-ever for skeptical reporting I wrote Erwin off. The opportunity to trash the police was too tempting to write, regardless of verifying the truth, just as Newsweek opportunity to trash the president.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16 May, 2005 19:17  

  • I have read Erwin's articles for years. They were never objective and seeming to bleed for the "people". I am not surprised to see another journalist is making up stories and sources. I worked in journalism for a time, and I saw and was even tempted by this behavior. Notice how she cites personal tragedy when she has to pony up the truth? Classic victim behavior. The Bee should have had this on the front page, and it's funny that their ombudsman resigned several months ago.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17 May, 2005 11:43  

  • I work at the Bee. Diana is a pleasant individual but I have always hated her columns. Sappy, heavy-handed, preachy crap.
    Did she make things up? Many of us believe she did. Instead of answering to her editors, (people who genuinely like her and weren't "out to get her") she merely chose to resign. She can sing "personal crisis" all she wants but no one trashes their entire career simply over a messy divorce. Her "witchhunt" allegations are total bullshit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 May, 2005 19:14  

  • I just checked the Columnists Association web site and not only is she still listed as a speaker, she is scheduled to give a talk about "getting off your ass and knocking on doors." If she had gotten off her ass, she wouldn't be in this mess. I know the woman has won awards but for all we know the work that earned her those awards could have been fiction.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 01 June, 2005 02:30  

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