At least the Los Angeles Times is honest to enough to admit in the below correction that they never bothered to actually talk with the people whom the article was about before they wrote it.
My favorite LA Times experience of this type was when a columnist (who is no longer with the paper) called to fact check a story about me at his editor's insistence since he had never spoken to me. But when I informed him he had all his facts dead wrong - he told me it was too late to do anything about it because the paper was about to go to press, which turned out to be a lie. He then altered one line slightly, but left all the untrue statements in his column. And, of course, no correction was ever made.
My second favorite experience was when a writer called to apologize when an editor (who had never met or talked to me) added an unflattering descriptive word before my name that was not only not what she had written and not her opinion of me, but which also contradicted everything she had written in the article.
November 4, 2006
'Blood Diamond': An article in the Oct. 10 Calendar section about controversy in the diamond industry over the film "Blood Diamond," to be released in mid-December, included references to the De Beers Group. De Beers was not given a reasonable amount of time to respond, contrary to The Times' policy.
The article referred to De Beers as a cartel that controls the majority of the world's diamonds. There are conflicting statistics over the percentages of diamonds mined and sold by various companies, and a De Beers spokesman says it does not mine and market the majority of the world's diamonds.
The article said De Beers was banned from operating in the U.S. for a decade because of antitrust violations, a reference that erroneously combined two 1994 legal challenges: The company was never banned but says its executives chose not to travel to the U.S. after a 1994 indictment charging De Beers and General Electric with industrial diamond price-fixing. De Beers pleaded guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to pay a $10-million criminal fine. Also, De Beers was accused of violating antitrust laws in a group of class-action lawsuits in 1994 that alleged U.S. consumers overpaid for diamonds; it settled those lawsuits for $250 million in 2005 without admitting liability.
The article also said that De Beers executive Jonathan Oppenheimer asked the "Blood Diamond" filmmakers to add a disclaimer stating that the events portrayed were fictional and that, under the Kimberley Process, so-called conflict diamonds now rarely end up on the market. This request came from the World Diamond Council, not from Oppenheimer or De Beers. The article suggested Oppenheimer was head of the De Beers Group when he expressed concerns about the film in September 2005 to diamond dealers and retailers at an industry convention in Cape Town, South Africa. At the time, he was head of a division, De Beers Consolidated Mines; he is currently a member of the company's board of directors.
The article stated that De Beers is exploring for diamonds on land in Botswana that was formerly occupied by the Kalahari Bushmen. That claim is made by Survival International on behalf of the Bushmen, who were relocated by the Botswanan government, which is partnered with De Beers in a diamond company called Debswana. A De Beers spokesman says that while it has explored in the Bushmen's former homeland in the past, it has never mined there and "today has no activity of any sort in the region."
The article also referred to a report released by the U.S. Government Accounting Office. Its name is the Government Accountability Office.
A letter from the De Beers Group providing that company's perspective was published in the Calendar section on Oct. 14 and can be read online at latimes.com/debeers. A letter from the World Diamond Council appears in today's Calendar section on Page E15.