Ayleen Cabas-Mijares, who describes herself as a "critical/cultural and feminist media scholar" in her Twitter biography, wrote that young journalists should fabricate details in their stories because newsroom standards are too high and because reporters who are minorities are likely going to experience racism -- in one of the most liberal professions on the planet, by the way.
"In my few years as a journalism educator, I've found that the younglings engage in unethical practices (i.e., fabricating quotes, etc.) mostly out of desperation mixed with inexperience," she wrote to begin her thread.
Her remarks were in response to USA Today editors recently removing 23 articles after they were tipped off that reporter Gabriela Miranda had fabricated quotes and sources.
"Their failure to meet standards says as much about the unmanageable pressure they deal with and the little support/guidance they have as their personal shortcomings," she wrote.
Ok. Yes. Gabriela Miranda made huge, reprehensible mistakes and is facing the consequences. However, we should spend more time critiquing newsroom and corporate leaders at USA Today. Here’s why ?
— Dr. Ayleen Cabas-Mijares (@ayleen_cabas) June 17, 2022
"J-schools (and newsrooms for that matter) are supposed to provide the structure and support necessary for reporters (especially young ones) to face the complexities of journalism and apply rigor every step of the way," Cabas-Mijares continued, using the academic reference to 'journalism schools.'
"With Miranda we have an early career reporter coming out of one of the most prestigious j-schools in the country and landing in one of the biggest newsrooms. So, how does this happen?
"Massive layoffs have been shaking the news industry for years and the pandemic brought about more dramatic cuts. Many of the dismissed editorial staff were fact checkers & copy editors who are vital to uphold journalistic rigor.
"I don’t fully know USA Today’s situation but it had big rounds of layoffs in 2014 and at the beginning of the pandemic. Like many other outlets, it also faces huge pressure from Gannett to cut cost while chasing ad revenue + audience engagement to the detriment of good journalism.
"So, as newsrooms get rid of their internal accountability systems, exploit and underpay reporters, and thirst over likes for profit, we get the perfect breeding ground for (intentional and unintentional; disastrous and negligible) errors.
"Plug someone like Miranda, a young woman from a minoritized community trying to make it in a big (white) newsroom, and you get a recipe for failure," she said, going on to essentially excuse the reporter's documented fabrications.
Cabas-Mijares then noted, rather hypocritically: "Yes, I know that people fighting greater odds haven’t cheated to succeed. I’m not justifying or legitimizing her actions. I just understand that bigger forces were at play, setting the odds against a relatively vulnerable individual."
Next, the professor moved on to blaming the newspaper's editorial staff.
"It’s at this point that I resent USA Today throwing Miranda under the bus saying that her work didn’t 'meet our standards.' Excuse you? You PUBLISHED her work. You created an environment where basic fabrications could get past your team. Gann… USA Today failed her and the public," Cabas-Mijares claimed.
"I'd be more suspicious of her editor than her. USA Today found out about this due to an EXTERNAL tip," the assistant professor noted further. "Like, my friend, where were you with your fancy title and years of experience? Where's your resignation letter? But no, it's easier to put it all on Miranda."
"Anyhow, I hope this young reporter is surrounded by loving people and mentors who hold her accountable and give her the tools to grow. As for USA Today, their disloyalty is showing and their broken strategies could keep jeopardizing young reporters and journalism more broadly," she concluded.
We're pretty sure USA Today did not say, 'Hey, if you can't get quotes or details, just make something up,' when they hired this reporter. We're also certain that her editors obviously trusted her to write factual stories, as editors do not have time to literally fact-check every single detail on a major paper like that.
But again, more than anything, this enabler is one of the reasons why modern American journalism is in crisis.