NEWSDAY REPORTER CAUGHT IN WEB OF LIES
Embellishes Student Fellowship at Prestigious School on Publisher’s Website
By Staff Reporter
Long Island’s Newsday publication, which has covered its share of public scandals in recent years, is now bracing for its own scandal as problems are now beginning to surface related to one of their own investigative reporters, Geoffrey “Gus” Garcia-Roberts. The writer’s shaky and concocted stories have now become the subject of numerous investigative inquiries from competing news outlets, and according to an unnamed source familiar with the evolving story, there are concerns that Garcia-Roberts has padded his own biography with an embellished college degree.
Gus Garcia-Roberts, who co-authored Blood Sport with Tim Elfrink, is described on Penguin Publisher’s website as an award-winning investigative reporter, and it says “also an alternative weekly veteran, he was an Academy for Alternative Journalism fellow at Medill University before tenures as a staff writer at Cleveland Scene and as the senior writer at Miami New Times, where he spent four years.”
The impressive introduction fails to indicate that Garcia-Roberts’ stint at Medill was actually an eight week-long course given to future journalists and sponsored by the non-profit “Alternative News Foundation” and the Chicago Reader, a free news publication. The initiative was designed to expose, train and recruit minority students and recent graduates to work at local weekly newspapers. The program ran from 2000-2009 and Garcia-Roberts took the course in 2007, after he claims that he received a BA in English from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Though contacted, an Earlham representative was unable to confirm Garcia-Roberts’ degree in time for the publishing of this article and although there is an extensive list of notable graduates listed on the school’s website, there is no mention of Garcia-Roberts.
Penguin Publishers’ assertion that Garcia-Roberts was a “Journalism fellow” at the prestigious and highly competitive school affiliated with Northwestern University is “deliberately misleading and dishonest,” according to Meg Pearson, a recent graduate of the University. “His biographical credentials suggest he attended Medill and he clearly did not. Even if he intended to convey that he was accepted into the summer course held at Medill, the code of journalism ethics dictates that professional journalists should take special care not to misrepresent the facts,” Pearson added.
Garcia-Roberts has made a name for himself by pumping up scandalous accounts of political and sports-world corruption, and while loose on facts and research, he is well known for citing “unnamed sources” in his investigative pieces. This was particularly the case throughout his book, “Blood Sport,” which took readers on a wild ride through the seedy places and people profiting off the sale of steroids to professional athletes and the drug’s connection to backroom tanning operations in south Florida. The words, “unnamed,” and “the client, who asked not to be named,” and similar terms, are used throughout the book.
In the end, and by all accounts, the scandalous story which promised to take down such notable baseball legends as Alex Rodriguez led to nothing more than a year-long suspension for A-Rod and a fine for a south Florida businessman.
“You can’t build a truthful story around anonymous sources,” stated Pearson.
Yet Garcia-Roberts uses the same tactic in all of his investigative pieces, which has led to the recent questions about the credibility of his work. Mark Brower, a professor of Journalism, was asked to critique some of Garcia-Roberts’ work for Newsday for this story.
He offered, “There is an exaggerated tone to much of his work, and it appears that when some of the facts don’t add up to his version of the storyline, he fills in the gaps with suppositions. This was particularly the case with the investigative reporting on police misconduct in Long Island, which earned Newsday a Pulitzer-finalist credential,” said Brower. He added, “Even more troubling is that he describes himself as a prize-winning finalist for the Public Service Award. He knows, I know, and certainly Newsday’s publishers know, that the Public Service prize is always granted to a news organization and not the individual reporters. They may be cited as part of the team, by the Pulitzer is awarded to the newspaper.”
Throughout the years, Newsday has failed to crack down on unscrupulous reporters and hold them accountable when they misrepresent the facts, portray false narratives and use surreptitious methods of obtaining background information. In a letter dated July 23, 2015 addressed to Gus Garcia-Roberts, the Suffolk County, New York District Attorney issued a complaint against the reporter for repeatedly making “false assertions” and for a“reckless disregard for the truth.”
This wasn’t the first time a complaint was made against Garcia-Roberts. The reporter was also called out by Victoria Jackson, a former Saturday Night Live cast member that was profiled in a 2012 article for the Village Voice publications. After the piece was published, Ms. Jackson wrote a lengthy rebuttal to the publishers detailing what she described as “blatant lies”, “omissions” and “half-truths” throughout the piece.
In 2010, a publication affiliated with Florida’s A&M University published a scathing piece criticizing a Garcia-Roberts story on Florida Memorial University’s search for a new president. It read, “Garcia-Roberts’ cluelessness is shocking” and went on to cite poor research by the reporter.
In 2014, in an article by Teri Thompson and Nathaniel Vinton appearing in the New York Daily News, Victor Conte, a anti-steroid advocate, states that Garcia-Roberts was likely misinformed about key facts concerning the Biogenesis scandal, which was the subject of his book, Blood Sport. He stated to the Daily News, “It’s simply not true. One hundred percent not true. They seem very confused about what happened,” referring to Garcia-Roberts and co-author Tim Elfrink.
Jack Moore in Hardball Times was even more critical of the pair in his September 2014 article entitled, Blood Sport Misses the Mark. He stated, “It shows a complete misunderstanding of why the story they spent so much time reporting on has value to the general public, and it’s a shame so much of the book’s space is wasted on a largely artificial story with no impact on anything other than Major League Baseball’s formidable brand.”
Professor Brower was asked if reporters like Garcia-Roberts have damaged their profession by engaging in false narration. He stated, “This is a given and it’s the primary reason why people have lost interest in the media. But I do think Gus has more significant problems when it comes to his own narrative. If it’s true that he portrayed himself as a Northwestern University Fellow or embellished his resume to pad his journalistic credentials, these personal falsehoods will eventually be revealed and it says something about the overall quality of his work.”
Garcia-Roberts resides in Brooklyn, New York and is married to Jennifer Wong, an employee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The pair met while working together at the Cleveland Scene.