By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
We removed last week's cover story, "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" by Nick Sylvester, from theVillage Voice website when questions surfaced regarding the reporter's work. While a review of the story demonstrated that the bulk of the author's article was accurate, the piece also contained fabrication and composite anecdotes used in the interest of narrative. Sylvester admitted his errors and promptly apologized. He was just as promptly suspended. We regret this shoddy journalism.
Sylvester made up the story about me
I just read the article about The Game where Nick Sylvester, who I know, made up a defamatory and false story about me and used my real name, profession, and hometown in the article. I was never in New York on the trip he claimed and never performed the actions he said I did. I am incredibly upset about this and am currently consulting with my lawyer about legal action. I would also like a retraction printed.
Los Angeles, California
Letter of The Week
You can't make this shit up?
Interesting how, à la James Frey, Nick Sylvester takes refuge in the word composite when defending his piece. With that in mind, "I'm a famous . . . (in my mother's mind) . . . groundbreaking musician . . . (I play along with Elvis Costello records on a guitar in my bedroom) . . . with a love life that would make Porfirio Rubirosa blush . . . (I once screwed my ex-wife twice in one night with a minimum of false starts) . . . who overcame the fallout from a 10-year stint in San Quentin . . . (I was once admonished by a police officer for jaywalking when I lived in San Francisco) . . . and have gone on to become a titan of the global communications industry . . . (I hold a mid-level PR job at a Philly money-management firm). All told, a "composite" picture of Ed Dunn.
Readers respond to Sylvester's fabrication:
Just what is Sylvester apologizing for? As near as I can tell, he is apologizing for getting caught. Unless of course he just realized that making stuff up under the guise of journalism is wrong? I don't need him to apologize. I need him to find another career.
I thought the Voice hired the most socially conscious writers that exist. Apparently even the best of us are human. Thank God. I was beginning to think the Voice was a little too "holier than thou." Pointing fingers at everyone and everything. It's only a matter of time before the hand swings back to one of your own. Still, I love your work and hope this doesn't become larger than it is.
Perhaps the editors should have realized that Sylvester is a talented, gonzo journalist, and that his chops depend on a fluid non-naturalistic style. The same editors promoting and reveling in his dissection of Cam'ron and Jay-Z's feuds should have realized that Sylvester was turning the navel-gazing in on itself, especially the self-referential pop sociology masquerading as in-depth reporting these days. Those depending on analytic reporting should have turned elsewhere; the error here is in the editors' running "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" as a news cover, instead of an inside-the-park fresh take on the most tired story in the city-how twentysomethings are fucking in New York.
Kudos to the Voice for its quick response to the Sylvester falsehoods. Oh that every website would be so upfrontnot to mention our dear politicians. The funny thing is, the fake stuff was the best part of an otherwise fairly boring and not especially timely article. Somebody needs to introduce Sylvester to the fiction genre, where making things up ain't just expected, it's de rigueur.
Sylvester should be sacked. I appreciate that he apologized, but he lacks credibility, and apologies don't equate to ethics. He got caught, so he said he's sorry. Even Oprah raked what's-his-name over the coals when she found out he was writing fiction instead of alleged fact. The Voice's credibility is riding on this.
I read Sylvester's "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" with amusement. The Voice is the latest in a long line of mainstream-media publications that act like they have found something new, and now that it has found it, terms like "post-Game" are coming out. The real story is that it took seven years for the media to catch on to what was going on, on the Internet. Why is the Voice so proud of such a delay? The real story here is how mainstream publishers cash in on distribution rather than original ideas, that they marginalize Internet writers as amateurs until they choose to knight one as being relevant, and if they don't like the source of an idea, well, they just attribute it somewhere else. I wonder if the Voice realizes how dumb it looks being seven years behind the Internet writers.
Put the Sylvester story back up: It will improve traffic to the website and it will let readers see what you're talking about. Some of your readers don't have access to the Voice by newspaper box; the only way they see it is online.
I support Sylvester 100 percent. I thought it was an excellent article on pickup lines and tactics for the horn dogs of New York City. All PUA's make up stuffwasn't that at the core of Sylvester's article? The points Sylvester made came through like blue-point bullets through Kevlar. I wish Sylvester many more cerebral cerebrations and look forward to reading his next article. All seduction is based on illusions, and masterful patterns of seduction often veer from the truththe truth will not necessarily get you offfantasy, well-constructed fantasy, will, and quivering moans is still the goal, isn't it? Delete Lookner's name and add mine, and re-enter the article online.
It's time for Sylvester to start looking for new work, without a good recommendation. The Voice, like all journalistic endeavors, has a responsibility to bring accurate information to the public so that we can make educated decisions. In the real world, just as in the computing world, garbage in results in garbage out. In this instance, Sylvester put garbage into the Voice, and the Voice put garbage out. The garbage that Sylvester injected into the Voice has compromised everything published by the Voice. The taint carries over, even to nonparticipants. Everyone is tainted.
Jack Foster Mancilla
San Diego, California
I think it is an abomination that Sylvester has not been dismissed from the Voice after making up parts of his recent cover story. What has happened to journalistic integrity? It is a sad day for The Village Voice. New Times Media are arbiters of the lowest form of tabloid journalism if they fail to act on such a complete lack of ethics.
Beyond the irresponsibility of placing your faith in a journalist that lacks real qualifications or a sourcing education, I feel there might be a bigger crime here. Namely, the failure to attribute the idea of Sylvester's cover story to a local love/dating/sex blogger who had pitched it a full month prior to Sylvester's poach.
Are you kidding me? A lot more than the last paragraph was made up in that story. Life according to Sylvester's Ivy League imagination might be sexier than reality, but it's not more interesting. So why don't you hire some real journalists who know the differenceor just admit that facts don't matter and you are not real journalists.
My condolences on the situation, but I have to ask, did the Voice check out Sylvester's unnamed sources too? Even before this scandal hit gossip pages, I thought the lede seemed completely made up. The quote he leads with is suspiciously long and lean. Having interviewed a few people in my time, I know very few people who talk in nut graphs. Also, I can't believe he lied in print and is only being suspended. He should be fired. No matter how adorable he is or the cult of personality he fosters, he is no different than Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass or the myriad other self-important wunderkinder of his ilk and should be treated in the same manner.