NEW YORK A St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter whose stories about a local ministry were the subject of a lengthy correction last week has been suspended for five days, her attorney told E&P.
Carolyn Tuft, who wrote articles about the Joyce Meyer Ministries that prompted the 577-word correction on June 19, filed a grievance with the local Guild chapter opposing the suspension, according to Tim O’Neil, a guild steward. “We are representing and defending Carolyn. She is a good reporter,” he said.
Post-Dispatch Managing Editor Arnie Robbins declined to comment on the suspension, saying “I can’t and won’t respond to personnel matters.” Tuft was unavailable for comment, her attorney said.
David Newberger, Tuft’s attorney, claimed that the suspension was in retaliation for a sexual harassment claim Tuft had made against a supervisor several months ago. He would not name the supervisor, but said the person had left the paper since then.
“The newspaper came after her in reaction to this claim,” Newberger said. The Post-Dispatch’s Robbins called the assertion “ludicrous.”
Newberger said Tuft filed the sexual harassment claim with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, which determined there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
The correction that prompted Tuft’s suspension related to two stories she had written on April 18 and May 1 about the ministries, based in nearby Fenton, Mo.
“After receiving a complaint from the ministry about factual issues in these stories, we examined a transcript from a press conference held by the ministry, records cited in the stories and the reporter’s notes,” the correction said, in part. “We discovered references that need to be corrected or clarified. These two articles did not meet our standards for fairness and accuracy.”
The note then went on to correct several problems with the stories.
Robbins has said that no review of Tuft’s past work on other issues or stories was being done. “We believe it is isolated to just these two stories,” Robbins said last week.
Robbins said the paper began to review the reporting after receiving a complaint from Joyce Meyer Ministries in mid-May. Ministry officials told E&P last week they had been satisfied with the correction and apology.
Tuft’s suspension came a day after popular Post-Dispatch Columnist Bill McClellan came to her defense with a column that compared criticism of her to a public flogging. “The sad truth is, those are the kinds of errors reporters sometimes make,” he said after recounting the specific corrections that were made. “I wish we didn’t, but we do. Should we be publicly flogged for making them?”
Joe Strupp is a senior editor at E&P