The amazing Page One Los Angeles Times article today, correcting a probably libelous Times Calendar story published on St. Patrick’s Day and written by investigative reporter Chuck Philips, is known in the journalism biz as a “skinback.” I don’t know exactly where the term “skinback” originated, but you could feel the skin getting peeled off Philips piece by piece in the retraction by Jim Rainey. It describes how Philips got duped by con artist James Sabatino into running a false story that implicated Sabatino himself, as well as associates of Sean “Diddy” Combs, in the non-fatal but brutal 1994 shooting of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
Apparently, five-time loser Sabatino was so desperate to entangle himself in the lives of famous rappers that he created the fake FBI document on an old typewriter, implicating himself and talent manager James Rosemond. Chuck Philips bought it, writing that Rosemond and Sabatino “set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios,” and then connected them to Combs’ Bad Boy Records.
But the document was filled with dead-giveaways that it was a fake, which any independent documents expert could have told the Times. Credit goes to The Smoking Gun for ripping the lid off this putrid mess. There were problems with the Philips story even before The Gun went off.
It was so jammed with off-record sources it read like a piece from the Bad Old Days before corrupt journalist Jayson Blair so badly dirtied The New York Times. Today, among the nation’s big dailies, the L.A. Times has one of the most useless policies for controlling its overuse of unnamed sources, which proliferate there like a plague. Take away the anonymous sources, and Philips’ entire story turned on a bogus document.
Have you noticed the outrage from media ethics mavens across the country?
Yeah, cue the chirping crickets.
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