Ex-Chicago journalist tied to fake quotes in stories

Juan Thompson

Juan Thompson

A former Chicago journalist has been linked to a “pattern of deception” involving fabricating quotes and creating fake email accounts while writing for The Intercept, a New York-based online publication.

Juan Thompson, whose employment as a staff reporter for The Intercept ended last month, previously worked as an intern at Chicago Public Media WBEZ FM 91.5 and at DNAinfo.com Chicago. (In his bio, he exaggerated his roles with both Chicago companies.)

On Tuesday, Betsy Reed, editor of The Intercept, posted a note to readers disclosing that an investigation into Thompson’s reporting found numerous instances of quotes attributed to people who said they were never interviewed or whose identities could not be confirmed.

“Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods,” Reed wrote. Another fake email account Thompson created used Reed’s own name.

“The Intercept deeply regrets this situation,” Reed wrote. “The best way we can see to maintain the trust of readers is to acknowledge and correct these mistakes, and to focus on producing journalism we are proud of.”

According to Reed, Thompson admitted to creating fake email accounts and fabricating messages, "but stood by his published work.” He did not cooperate in the review.

Thompson joined The Intercept in November of 2014 — nine months after it was launched by First Look Media, the news organization bankrolled by billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.

At DNAinfo Chicago, some were not surprised by the news about Thompson, who worked briefly as a summer intern in 2013, mainly covering event stories. “Can't say we didn't see this coming,” tweeted deputy editor Jen Sabella.

At WBEZ, Thompson worked as an intern on “The Afternoon Shift” for four months in 2014, according to Ben Calhoun, vice president of content and programming at Chicago Public Media.