Harper's Makes 1st Retraction in 165 Years

Magazine makes big step over old piece by disgraced Stephen Glass
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2015 11:38 AM CST
This May 7, 2003, screenshot shows Stephen Glass, former writer for the "New Republic," in New York.   (AP Photo/CBS News, file)

(Newser) – Disgraced journalist Stephen Glass continues trying to make up for past transgressions, most recently to Harper's Magazine. Although much of the hullabaloo in the 1990s originally focused on Glass' work for the New Republic—a majority of which he completely made up, per the Washington Post—it's Harper's to whom he's now making amends. In October, Glass sent back $10,000 the magazine had paid him to write a 1998 article on his stint as a phone psychic, writing that he "did not deserve the money." Now it's clear why he thought that. In a letter appearing in Harper's January issue, Glass outlines all the discrepancies in the piece, and Harper's responds with an astonishing announcement of its own: It has retracted Glass' article, the first time it's ever done so in its 165-year history.

Glass documents, paragraph by paragraph, where he "exaggerated" and "fabricated." "This story should not be relied upon in any way," he writes. "I would like to publish a retraction ... That said, you may prefer that my misdeeds not be referred to in your pages again." But Harper's was happy to do so. "[The] letter makes clear that at least 5,647 of the 7,902 words of 'Prophets and Losses' were based on fabrications," the editors write. "A deception of that scale requires more than a simple enumerating of errors and falsehoods; we must retract the entire article." (Subscribers can view the article, now marked "retracted.") But while the editors lament this step, they give a shoutout to their fact-checkers, noting they've only had to do this once. "We remain committed to getting the story straight … and to making sure no one like Stephen Glass is ever allowed to fool us again." (Check out this 1998 Vanity Fair piece on Glass' deceptions.)

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