Recently, my old friend Peter Landesman took his handsome mug and dubious credentials to Northwestern University's Medill journalism school, where he lectured students on, keep a straight face now, proper sourcing in investigative stories.
Until Medill student reporter Jeannie Vanasco Googles her name, finds this post, and sends me a complete transcript of the talk (who says I don't know how to do research?), here's her report. It's nice to know that criticisms of Landesman's sex slave story are still dogging him, and not surprising that he's still having trouble explaining himself. The key paragraph, fisked, after the jump.
"A privilege source is a source that can deliver something, but for which you must add a certain realm of protection."
No argument there. Though perhaps that protection shouldn't include forgetting to tell the readers, or your editors, that your source has multiple personality disorder.
"In my sex trafficking story, I dealt with girls who were forced to have sex with 40 men a day. Law enforcement didn�t understand the gravity of it."
Still doesn't, apparently, considering that since his article came out, there has not been a single arrest or raid that would confirm Landesman's central contention that American adolescents are being kidnapped and enslaved in suburban basements.
"The details were incredibly horrific. Men would put pictures out of Playboy on girls� faces when having sex with them. These girls were nine years old."
Hmm. That detail wasn't in the article. And didn't come out in the NPR interview in which PL spilled other stuff that didn't make it into print (remember the hairy chest? Good times, good times). So he's still parcelling out tidbits. And what exactly is this one supposed to mean? Is he saying here that men who pay for sex with children are fantasizing that they're having sex with grown women? I don't claim to be an expert on the pedophile mind, but does that sound right to anyone? Isn't it usually the other way around? To me, this sounds like so much else that "Andrea" told him: a confused, wounded young woman's overheated fantasy about what being a child sex slave might be like.
"One criticism is that I never actually saw sex trafficking take place, but would I have screwed [over] my sources? I have to go home and live with myself as a journalist and the relationships I develop."
Can't quite tell what PL is saying here, but I don't much like either possibility. Maybe he's saying that he DID witness the trafficking, but promised his sources he wouldn't mention it (in which case, he's screwing them [over] now; I guess it's OK if you wait a year). Why would he do that? Surely if he witnessed something taking place, he could describe it without saying who told him where to go and when. Or is he saying he could not have gained access to the trafficking sites without giving his source as a reference, who would then have been exposed when the story came out? But that seems unlikely to say the least. Honestly, I'm stumped. How is protecting your sources an excuse for the lapses in this story?
Oh, and Peter, if you're Googling your name, tough luck on that small claims hearing. Can't believe the judge wasn't impressed when you told him your credentials. "What bearing does this have in the case?" The nerve of him!