Counterfeit Conversations

Julie Amparano, columnist for the Arizona Republic, had an affinity towards creative writing, but her intricate imagination didn’t progress her journalistic career. In fact, her artistry in coloring outside the lines created new faces and quotes in her thrice-weekly column, “Conversations.”

On August 20, 1999, five years working at working at the Republic, Amparano was fired after failing to produce sources named in her column. “Some of the people quoted in her column are untraceable. We can’t find them or prove they exist,” the Republic told readers in a front-page, four-paragraph apology the next day followed by a page one story on August 24 with a detailed investigation of  Amparano’s columns.

Amparano denied allegations that she made up quotes. However, repeated statements in her columns were attributed to a “Jennifer Morgan,” described with several different occupations. The former columnist also defended her use of the Jennifer Morgan source, asking, “Is it inconceivable that you could find more than one person with that name?” She says some of the names were untraceable due to the nature of street interviews. “People can’t always be found in databases,” Amparano says.

Executive Editor and Vice President Pam Johnson said, “It was a difficult step to take, but it was an enormous journalistic sin.” The paper reviewed 11 of her 17 columns focusing on pieces that included obscure sources. “In those columns, we identified 65 total sources, including 40 that needed some checking because we did not know who they were,” Johnson stated.

The newspaper hired Private Investigator Scott Yeager to look into 15 names of people quoted in “Conversations.” Johnson said, “He found that 11 could not be traced.”

Four actual people were found.
Since her termination at the paper, Amparano has co-authored a children’s book, taught English at Arizona State University West and worked on a Latino-themed Web site (no longer up and running) with her husband. Thanks to the Internet, her bad reputation in the newspaper business will always precede her.
Amparano joined the Arizona Republic after working at The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Daily News, and The Wall Street Journal. Julie Amparano was fired for alleged source fabrication but vows to clear her name.

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