Monday, August 13, 2012

Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus, Part IV

Continued from Part III.....

Complete Series on Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Article HERE.
UPDATE: Monday, August 20th, 2012 11:30 PM
I had lots of traffic on the blog today from Advance Publications, the parent company of Vanity Fair.

T&T StatCounter® Screen Shots

As  you can see above, someone at Advance Publications and/or Vanity Fair reread Part I of this series on Monday at 10:48 AM PT.  A few minutes later,  someone read Part II. Shortly after noon, Part III and Part IV were  also read.  All told, between 10:48 AM and 3:44 PM, T&T received 26 visits from Advance Publications.

This puts to rest the question of whether Vanity Fair is aware of  the errors and fabricated quotes in Mark Bowden's article. Bowden and Vanity  Fair owe their readers an explanation.  

UPDATE: August 15th, for clarity

August 13th, 2012
With all the recent journalism stories about plagiarism and fabrication in the news, I thought it was time to revisit this series, Fact Checking Mark Bowden’s Curious Vanity Fair Article on the Sherri Rasmussen case.

Bowden’s story, A Case So Cold It Was Blue, appeared in the July 2012 issue of Vanity Fair, which hit newsstands in early June.  A week and a half later, the entire lengthy article – more than 9,500 words –went up on the Vanity Fair website, where it’s still online.

A few days later, on June 20th, I posted Part I of this series. Part I detailed numerous factual errors in the Vanity Fair article. Considering the subject, a murder committed by a LAPD detective, these were not insignificant mistakes. Among the facts Bowden gets wrong is what year Stephanie Lazarus’ sexual relationship with John Ruetten ended, as well as when lab testing was done of the bite-mark swab and what that testing revealed. None of these facts were late-breaking news. Stephanie Lazarus’ trial ended on March 8th, 2012, almost three months before Bowden's article. Part I also documented numerous places where Bowden misquotes Stephanie Lazarus’ June 2009 videotaped interview. In at least one instance, Bowden fabricated a line of dialogue that is never said, and does not appear in the video or transcript. The video and transcript have been public documents since November 2010.

In Part II, posted on June 26th, I questioned how Bowden was able to describe Lazarus’ private thoughts and feelings during the interview, and how he arrived at his characterizations of Lazarus' personality and career.

On July 2nd, Part III revealed that Bowden never interviewed any of the individuals involved in the case before publishing his article.

The August 2012 issue of Vanity Fair came out soon after the 4th of July.  Below is an image of page 47 of the August issue. Vanity Fair did correct one error from the July 2012 issue but nothing regarding Bowden’s article.

Vanity Fair August 2012, published corrections

To me, getting the facts right in a story involving the murder of an innocent woman by an active-duty police officer seems more important than some book title. But maybe that's just me. Since Vanity Fair is a magazine that has a long lead time, I thought it might take them a bit longer to verify all the errors I pointed out in Part I and run a correction.  So I waited for the September issue.

The September 2012 issue of Vanity Fair hit newsstands August 2nd.  Below is an image of page 152.  This time, Vanity Fair corrected another story from the July 2012 issue, but still nothing on Bowden's piece.

Vanity Fair September 2012, published corrections

Two issues of Vanity Fair have been published since Bowden’s article ran. In each one, corrections were made to other articles in the July 2012 issue. Neither of those corrections approach the seriousness of Sherri Rasmussen's case.

Does Vanity Fair Know?
Since I began this series six weeks ago, a few T&T readers have suggested I write a letter to Vanity Fair’s editor, pointing out the errors in Bowden's article.  The problem I have with that is the magazine’s letters policy, which you can read in the above images. I believe the best platform for my reporting is right here where it's always been, on my blog.

Besides, within a day of publishing Part I, I knew there was no need to send a letter to Vanity Fair, since they are well aware of my blog.

Part I went live on June 20th at 9:00 PM PST. Below is a screenshot of my Statcounter® log showing a visitor from "Advance Publications" the very next morning, to my first post on Bowden's article.  The parent company of Vanity Fair is Advance Publications. As the image shows, there have been other visits from Advance Publications since then.

T&T StatCounter®

Since it's clear that Vanity Fair is aware of the factual misstatements in their Lazarus article, when will the magazine acknowledge them, and offer an explanation as to what went wrong? How did those altered quotes make it into print? Did Vanity Fair's fact checking department drop the ball, or did Bowden overrule them?  This Vanity Fair reader is waiting to know.

Stephanie Lazarus Trial Quick Links -- Complete Case Coverage

Continued in Part V.....


Anonymous said...

If only Vanity Fair had a reporter as dedicated as you! Their silence in the face of what you've presented speaks VOLUMES.

Keep up the great work Sprocket.

Anonymous said...

Any updates on Lazarus? this vanity fair stuff, although important and i applaud you for your hard work, is becoming boring. id much rather have an update, anything on said you would... thank you

Anonymous said...

I for one hope you'll continue your VF series until they admit their errors in judgment and thank you for doing their fact-checking for them - that article is an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

Its a disgrace!

They have circulation (and ad revenue) into the stratosphere so it would never be in their best interests to come clean.

I have read many bios and autobiographical books over the year where people claimed to be misrepresented in the press so this, of course, comes as no surprise.
-Wes J.

Robert said...

Sprockets, Betsy...

You are loved by a small but fiercely loyal audience. Your questions have been asked in an open forum but with only a hand full of people in the audience, so you might as well be shouting at the devil.

It does not appear that the author spoke with any of the investigators nor the trail attorneys, and it does not appear that they spoke with Lazarus nor any of the other principles.

However... absence any malice, (as you learned in the movie by the same name) they can publish their version of the truth and get away with it.

Welcome to the 21st century and the age of spin.

If you do not have a heavyweight intellectual property attorney, you have no recourse.,, and they know it...

Stephanie Lazarus is a convicted felon and as such she has no standing. Her complaints about being misquoted will be ignored.

So, for now... someone who probably never attended the trial, and who never interviewed the people involved is allowed under the law to publish a story that makes mincemeat out of the truth, and go off to the Hamptons on vacation.

As Winston Churchill once said... "A lie is halfway around the world before the truth can put on its pants."

You have the truth on your side, but you have no recourse other than outrage because few people in this culture are cowed by shame.

Rest assured that those who know, are aware of the truth, and recognize your wonderful reporting of it...

Rest your head on that and forget the wolves...


Maddie said...


Once again, Robert said it best.


A big fan of you both.