MEDIA
01/07/2011 03:44 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Village Voice Scandal: Forced To Retract Article With Fabricated Characters

The Village Voice found itself embroiled in a Jayson Blair-style scandal when it emerged that a reporter had fabricated characters for an article.

Voice editor Tony Ortega attached a note to the article in question, "For Profit Blues," on Friday. The article was written by Rob Sgobbo, an education reporter for the New York Daily News. (He was fired by the Daily News on Friday.) Sgobbo is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School, and blogged for the Huffington Post. (Full disclosure: This writer went to Columbia at the same time as Sgobbo, but did not know him.) He had written the article for the Voice on a freelance basis.

In the note, Ortega said that the Voice had learned that Sgobbo had invented a character named Tamicka Bourges for the story, as well as a spokesperson for the General Accounting Office named Matt Fraser.

In the story, a cached version of which can be found here, "Bourges" claimed that she had amassed $25,000 in student loan debt from Berkeley College without receiving a degree.

"It was just so easy, I didn't have to think twice," Sgobbo quotes "Bourges" as saying of the Berkeley College application. "But after that, it all went downhill."

But Ortega said that Berkeley College had contacted the Voice:

We first learned that there might be a problem when Berkeley College denied that one of its spokespersons, Kelly Meisberger, had spoken to Sgobbo. Berkeley later added that it had no record of Bourges as a student. At about the same time, the GAO called to inform us that there was no spokesperson there named "Matt Fraser," whom the story quoted.

Columbia students professed shock and confusion about Sgobbo's actions. While some former students told the Business Insider that they considered Sgobbo to be "cocky," most said they remembered him as an outstanding reporter.