NYTimes Admits Travel Writer Intentionally Lied About Economy in Article

On October 13, The New York Times gravely informed us that the economy was causing stress for travelers. Not just the economy in general, but specifically that the “crisis on Wall Street was the No. 1 cause of anxiety” for travelers. And, they had a survey to prove it, too. Or so NYT writer Paul Burnham Finney claimed. But, on October 21 the Times was forced to issue a little correction to Finney’s tall tale. You see, it turns out writer Finney outright lied about some of his claims and quotes.

In fact, it turns out that freelancer Finney made up quite a few “facts” for his story. Finney claimed the survey he was citing proved that travelers saw the Wall Street crisis as the “no. 1″ worry and claimed that the survey participants felt vulnerable “in the office and on a business trip.” However, the survey did not ask such questions of participants, so Finney could not have gleaned any such thing from it. Finney also quoted Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in Wilmette, Ill., as saying that she had “never seen such anxiety” from among her “banking and business patients.” But, the paper discovered that Dr. Molitor never made such a statement to Finney.

In other words, it appears that Paul Burnham Finney simply made up these “facts” to fit the theme he wanted to push in his story. Real anxiety wasn’t enough for Finney. Instead, Finney massaged the story to fit the day’s headlines about Wall Street in order to make his story more sensational.

Here is the Times’ correction:

An article in the Itineraries pages last Tuesday reported about the increasing stress on business travelers, and cited the findings of “Stress in America,” an annual survey of the American Psychological Association. That survey found that economic factors were the leading causes of stress levels in 2008, but it did not say, as the article did, that “the crisis on Wall Street was the No. 1 cause of anxiety,” nor did participants in the survey say they felt most vulnerable to stress “in the office and on a business trip.”

The survey included data from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23, 2008, a period of volatility on Wall Street, but none of the questions in the association’s survey referred to Wall Street or any economic crises. Participants were not asked how business travel affected their stress levels or where they felt most vulnerable to stress. The author of the article distorted the survey’s findings to fit his theme, contrary to The Times’s standards of integrity.

The article also quoted incorrectly from a comment by Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in Wilmette, Ill., who told the author that, “In my 20 years of practice I’ve never seen such anxiety among my patients,” not “among my banking and business patients.” While Dr. Molitor does have patients in banking and business, she did not single them out as being more anxious than her other patients.

Now, On-line bios notes that Finney seems to be a freelancer, not a permanent member of The New York Times.

Paul Burnham Finney is a New York-based business and travel writer who specializes in the transportation industry. He has been a columnist for the New York Times and Travel & Leisure and a contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, Frequent Flyer, the Robb Report, Porthole, and other national publications.

My guess is, Mr. Finney might find it a tad more difficult to get work from here on out… or at least he should.

(H/T Gawker.com)

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