There are three unforgivable sins in journalism: plagiarism,
fabrication and failing to check the facts. I am guilty of the last.
It came about like this. My attention was drawn to what looked like a
professionally packaged documentary video in which “US Ranger” (I now
know that that is bogus) Jesse Macbeth recounts his experiences as a
soldier in Iraq, where he claimed to have served for 16 months.
I was completely taken in by his fake sincerity. That, I suppose, could
be excusable for any person with no responsibility to check bona fides,
but in my case I fell for it because I wanted to believe it. That is
inexcusable. As soon as I was made aware of what I had done I offered
my resignation to Peter Fray, the editor of The Sunday Age. I have embarrassed the newspaper for which I have written since the first issue, which makes me ashamed.
There are no excuses. No extenuating circumstances. Opinion writers are
not expected to be objective and disinterested but that doesn’t give
licence to be indifferent to facts. I should have checked.