Riddle Me This: How Does a Yale Student Get Fired From The Wall Street Journal For Just Making Stuff Up?

June 27, 2012  |  

Source: News.yale.edu

Let me just say something right off the top. If I ever land a position with the Wall Street Journal, there is no way I am going to mess it up by simply being stupid. But that’s precisely what one Yale student has supposedly done, as WSJ has announced that one of their interns, Liane Membis, has been relieved of her duties, a.k.a. fired, amid allegations that she fabricated stories.

According to Talking Biz News, WSJ has placed the following note on it’s website in lieu of one of Ms. Membis’s articles:

“Bridging a Local Divide,” published online on June 17, has been removed from the Journal’s web sites. Many of the names contained in the article about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan were fabricated by reporting intern Liane Membis, and the quotes couldn’t be independently verified. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal.

A Journal spokeswoman provided this additional statement to the site on the incident:

“Liane Membis was an intern for the Journal for less than three weeks and wrote or contributed to five published pieces ­ one of which has been removed from our online archives and two of which have been edited to remove quotes that were provided by the intern and that cannot be confirmed. Notes detailing the actions taken have been placed at the original URLs. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal.”

The expected first reaction is why the heck would you mess up an opportunity at WSJ by just making up quotes, stories, and people rather than interviewing some people, getting some quotes, and writing some stories? I know Liane is young but I would have liked for her to recognize the prestigious position she was in as a 22-year-old woman of color inside the old boys news network. The fact that she landed the internship tells you she’s smart, as does her rank as a senior at Yale University, and as does her experience writing articles for the Yale Daily News, CNN.com, the Huffington Post, and Ebony, so she says. All of this experience is now in question, much like her WSJ pieces, because if she can fabricate people, places, and things in an article, she can certainly make up experience on a resume.

To be fair, my frustration with Liane is not because I feel her actions reflect poorly on black people, black women in particular, and our professionalism. My issue is that she was in a place so few of us journalists get to go and she truly squandered it away. But despite the mini-tirade I just went on about her actions,  I’m going to say something that may sound totally contrary to everything in my last few paragraphs: I’m not surprised. The reason being journalism is no different from any other facet of our society today. Journalistic integrity doesn’t bring notoriety and $2- to $3- word-per-minute paychecks. Sensationalism, muddled facts, and skimping on the details does.

Assuming Liane is in fact guilty of fabricating these pieces in her three-week stint as a WSJ intern, I see her actions as no different from many of the women we discuss here on a regular basis. Like Montana Fishburne who saw Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame on the wings of a viral sex tape as a way for her to become famous, like the women we chastise on “Basketball Wives” and “Love and Hip-Hop” of every city, Liane wanted to make her rise to the top quick, easy, and painless. Sure, we could just call her a lazy journalist, but the question is what motivated that laziness. What made making stuff up an option for a Yale student at the Wall Street Journal (or a graduate from any school at any publication)? It’s the fact that laziness and becoming more famous for your gaffes than your greatness at whatever you do has become the American way. Unfortunately, no matter what amount or quality of education you receive, the glitz of going about life the easy way usually shines a lot brighter than the prospect of picking up the phone and calling five or six random people for a one-line quote on a bridge that you don’t care about anyway. At least that’s what appears to have happened here.

And though I don’t want to make it seem as though Liane had an obligation to the black community in her position, however minute she may have thought it was, what I hope is that like with the famous Jayson Blair case, this situation does not reignite discussion over affirmative action practices and black people landing certain positions based on their melanin rather than their merit. But given that two other non-black journalists have also screwed up recently—the New Yorker ‘s Jonah Lehrer and Hearst’s Paresh Jha—I’d say we’re in the clear. If anything, these other two incidents only prove my point further. These days, everyone  is looking for a quick climb without forgetting about the consequences of a hard fall when you don’t go about it the right way.

What do you think about this situation and Liane Membis’ alleged actions?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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  • BabaPuppe

    I’m so sick of stupid people. I can’t say that I feel sorry for her, and I hope that she’s stuck asking “Do you want fries with that?” for the rest of her days. -_- (I used to want to be a journalist, so you could only imagine how mad I am that she’d waste such a GREAT opportunity.)

  • Pingback: Tisk, Tisk! Liane Membis’s Name is but another Hit Journos « Golden Press()

  • SickandTired

    First of all it is amazing how quick we are to judge and assume that Ms. Membis is guilty. As a “professional” journalist, YOU should do your research and get your facts straight before writing such an irresponsible outlandish piece of grammatically incorrect garbage.

  • Kenedy

    Not defending her or anything, but everyone lies…alot of people lie @ their jobs…she just caught…wait, why did the author of this article make it a “black” thing? What does that have to do with anything?

  • watchingyourrachetness

    in the interest of journalistic integrity, it would have behooved you to reach out and get her side. and at the very least say she chose not to comment. fair reporting madame noir.

  • FromUR2UB

    I remember back in the 70s, a young black woman had done the same thing. She wrote a news story about a poor ghetto child, that was so touching and brilliant, that it got her nominated for a Pulitzer prize. Initially, people were so proud of her, despite that we didn’t know her. But then, when she was asked to provide proof of the story…the child’s name and where he lived, she eventually had to admit that she’d fabricated the whole story. The pride that people had felt for her turned to disappointment. Obviously, she was a talented writer, but she probably should have tried fiction, instead of journalism. That was the end of her career, and I don’t think she was ever heard from again.

    • Yandi

      You don’t even know the woman’s name. How can you say she was never heard from again?

      • FromUR2UB

        Because, she was fired, and there was no more news about her after that, Stupid. Don’t you think if she’d gotten a job at another paper, under the name she was using, it would have made the news? That’s what it means for someone to never be heard from again.

        • Janet Cooke.

          • FromUR2UB

            Thank you.

  • Why are we judging her based on her race? And there is no excuse for deceit, she was jus lazy. so that Basketball wives comparison is bull.

  • status quo

    well that’s it good luck finding another well paid position. I just hope she doesn’t use them as reference because if she does she has no common sense just book sense. jobs are hard to come by

  • SMHgurl24

    A journalist lying, really this is a shock? Really?? REALLY PEOPLE this is shocking?? Smh

  • D. Rose in the paint

    Whoever wrote this please stop worshipping and idolizing corporate America…..SMH it seems like many black women just love tapdancin on somebody elses plantation!The idea of this girl screwing up a corporate position in the opinion of the author is the end of the world. SMH!

    • FromUR2UB

      Well, until we “get our own”, what’s the alternative? Most people that young, have to rely on SOMEBODY’s plantation to get their start in life. It’s not like opportunities are chasing black people down. So, when someone gets a rare one, you can’t help but wonder what she was thinking to squander it. But, like some of the other comments have said, I think that she had been getting over for so long, she became cavalier. She thought no one was going to bother to check up on her, with her black self. It might be the end of HER world because she’s probably going to have to find a new profession.

  • sportsjocku2

    Somebody will hire you, she’s no worst then the crap that get report by the current journalist. She just got caught, if she got caught at all. Could just be their way of getting rid of her.

    • Kizzy

      Right why didn’t the author of this blog put that out there as a possibility. Oh because she’s black she did it she lied. Come on be for real. They probably hired her to fill an agenda and then created this drama to let her go. In three Weeks she wrote 5 articles and had them published? Since when do interns get published that quickly smh I wish people would stop and think

      • FromUR2UB

        Yes, there are some people who will try to entrap someone. Being stupid or dishonest makes it easy for them to do it.

  • She’s African…she don’t count…..

  • JaneDoe

    She just did what she didn’t get caught doign at Yale plain and simple…

    • JaneDoe


    • Fe

      You don’t know that unless you personally knew her at Yale and know of this, you too are fabricating. See how easily it’s done?

  • RedButterfly81

    In my Fred Sanford voice: YOU BIG DUMMAY!!!

  • Candacey Doris

    That’s just stupid. She had a fast track to a goo job an screwed it up so easily. I know people that would have killed to intern at the WSJ! She’ll never get a real job in journalism again, so i hope she has a backup plan.

  • Gimmeabreak78

    Well, she’s certainly blacklisted herself from mainstream journalism. If she wants to be a part of something even tangentially related to journalism, she should consider starting her own blog.

  • Ms. Spring

    Once a liar, always a liar. Who would accept anybody’s actions that are not trustworthy? She is one of those people, however.

  • ieshapatterson

    lol yale grad or not.LYING won’t help you get ahead into this world.now it’s on her record and it will follow her around for years.

  • MLS2698

    She is crazy as h*ll. I would make sure I didn’t accidentally take a pen from that building, as to not be accused of stealing, much less, writing some fukery (obviously not a word) to get myself fired. All the education in the world can’t separate a fool from their folly.