After the New Republic’s Stephen Glass was unmasked as a journalistic fabricator in the spring of 1998, journalists everywhere proclaimed that the fiction-masquerading-as-fact Glass slipped by his New Republic editors would never have made it into their rigorous publications.
Among those counting major coup was Peter Canby, the viscount of fact-checking at The New Yorker. “We would have smoked it out very quickly,” Canby told the New York Times of the Glass fraud. Perhaps intuiting that he might be tempting the fates, Canby quickly tacked in another direction: “However, I can tell you that there is no absolute guard.”
Oh, Canby! If only you had shut your mouth there! If only you had known that two years later, it would be your squadron of sharp-penciled fact-checkers taking snarling rounds of ack-ack from the journalistic community for the Glassian fabrications Rodney Rothman included in his Nov. 27 New Yorker feature “My Fake Job.”
Alas, New Yorker hubris overwhelmed Canby, and he returned to praising his own publication at the expense of the New Republic:
The good checkers have an instinct and they just know if it’s solid or not. Beyond that, it’s the process of cross-checking. We really don’t take anything at face value. We check things in the notes and even if we have the notes, we still go to the sources.
In lieu of eating humble pie, Canby might want to send his apologies to:
Martin Peretz, Editor in Chief
The New Republic
1220 19th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036