New York magazine apologized Tuesday in what turned out to be the latest example of credulous reporting to embarrass the U.S. media: the story of Mohammed Islam, a New York City high school senior who said he made "high eight figures" trading stocks in his spare time.
The article, which drew widespread headscratching when it was published earlier this week, quickly unraveled Monday night when Islam and fellow student Damir Tulemaganbetov met with a reporter from the New York Observer at the offices of a PR firm to confess that the whole story was fabricated. No, Islam did not make $72 million trading oil and gold, and he is not launching his own hedge fund. It is apparently true, however, that the Stuyvesant High School senior is involved with the school's investment club and his simulated trades have been "very successful."
New York magazine detailed Tuesday some of the efforts it made to verify the story, including sending a fact-checker to Stuyvesant, "where Islam produced a document that appeared to be a Chase bank statement attesting to an eight-figure bank account." That, too, apparently was falsified, according to a report in the Washington Post.
"We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better," the magazine said, in a statement.
What's true? If we can believe Islam is telling the truth this time, the New York Observer reports that his parents were pretty disappointed. "Honestly, my dad wanted to disown me," he said. "My mom basically said she’d never talk to me. Their morals are that if I lie about it and don’t own up to it then they can no longer trust me. … They knew it was false and they basically wanted to kill me and I haven’t spoken to them since."
The revelations come in a bad month for some prestigious magazines. Rolling Stone is still trying to dig itself out of the University of Virginia gang rape morass now that the story of "Jackie" appears to have largely been fabricated. In that case Rolling Stone made a decision not to attempt to interview the perpetrators so as to spare the alleged victim from further suffering. At least New York made an attempt, however meager, to verify a person's version of events.