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For The Record: Joseph Mayton’s Guardian articles

On Thursday, the Guardian accused California-based freelance journalist Joseph Mayton of fabricating quotes and inventing sources in dozens of news articles and opinion features published by the news organization in recent years. The Guardian claimed its determination was based on an independent audit launched after the subjects of a February news article told news editors they did not speak with the reporter as Mayton had claimed.

In response, the Guardian altered several of Mayton’s news articles to remove quotes and sources that the news service said were either misquoted, invented or could not otherwise be authenticated. The Guardian also removed at least 12 articles that were deemed too problematic to modify or preserve in their original state, including stories on at least two events that the Guardian claimed Mayton did not personally attend.

Mayton has since issued a public statement denying the Guardian’s claims.

Neither Mayton nor the Guardian have publicly acknowledged which articles were altered or removed following the audit. But The Desk has identified nearly all of the stories that were either modified or deleted from the Guardian’s website based on cached records of the Guardian’s website as well as Mayton’s social media activity prior to this month. The list of articles is presented below for posterity.

Wine prices could go up after California wildfires leave tons of grapes unusable
Published: February 1, 2016

What was removed: The entire article. The story quotes a number of people by full name who are identified as connected to the wine industry in Northern California. In their editor’s note on Thursday, the Guardian said that a February article triggered the news organization’s audit of Mayton’s stories. An examination of cached files by The Desk revealed this article was pulled from the Guardian’s website shortly after it was published. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian explained that the article was pulled because “two sources denied speaking with or providing information to the reporter and other sources could not be verified.”

San Francisco 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert gets the chance to prove his worth
Published: November 18, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. A Guardian editor confirmed to The Desk that officials with the San Francisco 49ers football team did not attend a practice as was claimed in the article and did not interview people quoted in the article. Mayton disputes this. (Editor’s note: On Saturday, a Guardian editor contacted The Desk with information on this article; a review of cached Internet files revealed this article was removed on March 9th pending the outcome of an internal investigation.)

San Francisco police beating captured on video prompts call for charges
Published: November 18, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian deleted a quote attributed to a hair stylist named “Atzery” in which the 29-year-old compared the beating of a police chase suspect to the fatal shooting of a suspected bike theft earlier in the year by San Francisco officers.

Atzery, 29, who works at a hair salon in the Mission and declined to give her last name, recalled the fatal police shooting of a suspect in the area in February: “What has happened is just wrong because aren’t the police going to protect us instead of beat us or kill us like they did when they shot the Latino man in the back because they said he was stealing a bike.”

More ‘No Tech Zone’ signs appear in San Francisco as artist reveals identity
Published: October 5, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian deleted several man-on-the-street quotes attributed to a web developer named Thomas Knorr in response to several “No Tech Zone” signs that had appeared throughout San Francisco. An interview with the man who created the signs, Ivan Cash, remains intact, although the Guardian said in an editors note that it clarified that interview had been conducted by e-mail.

But some city residents are not impressed with Cash or his signs, 100 special edition versions of which the artist said he will sell for $100 in order “to help recoup time and costs associated with this project”. Cash also said the sale “will allow more people to create their own ‘no tech zone’ areas, say at a bar or the family kitchen”.

Thomas Knorr, 34, a San Francisco resident and web developer who works in Cupertino, to the south, believes Cash and others who are going after the tech community misunderstand the role technology and the public are having in the region.

“We are a tech-savvy city and we should be proud of it,” he told the Guardian. “And anyone who tries to tell people to put their devices away is trying to force people to see the world they want and it is no better than the arguments that the tech companies are taking over.”

He added that he understood the issue of rental prices – which have soared to a median of more than $3,500 for a one-­bedroom in the city – “but when I go to the park, sometimes I just want to get away and read something or watch something, and so what if it happens to be on my phone?”

Mark Zuckerberg tells India’s visiting leader of his spiritual trip to country
Published: September 27, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story focuses on an event in which Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, holds a joint conference with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. The Guardian has accused Mayton of not attending the event. Mayton does not dispute his absence, but says he never explicitly claimed in his article to have attended the event. (Editor’s note: On Saturday, a Guardian editor contacted The Desk with information on this article; a review of cached Internet files revealed this article was removed on March 9th pending the outcome of an internal investigation.)

Narendra Modi arrives for Silicon Valley tour as India’s influence grows
Published: September 26, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story dealt with the visit of India’s prime minister to Silicon Valley, which was to include a tour of Facebook and a meeting with the company’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. The piece contained a number of man-on-the-street style quotes as well as information obtained from Modi’s social media profiles. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian said the article was pulled on May 26 because “three of the article’s sources could not be verified.” Cached files reviewed by The Desk show the article was actually one of seven that was deleted on March 9.

‘No Tech Zone’ sign in San Francisco befuddles residents
Published: September 22, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to a French tourist named Marie Leroy on the subject of “No Tech Zone” signs that began appearing throughout San Francisco. Interestingly, a quote attributed only to a man named “Phoenix” was left intact.

Marie Leroy, 28, a tourist from, Toulouse, France, who had swung by Alamo Square in the hope of catching a glimpse of the sign, said she was disappointed it had been taken down. “I had heard all about how people here don’t really like the tech world and I thought it would have been neat to post this to my friends,” she said.

California residents condemn Red Cross for slow response to wildfires
Published: September 17, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to two high school students who allegedly declined to give their last names. Additionally, the Guardian removed information that stated wildfire evacuation shelters in two California cities had been filled to capacity.

“It was my mom’s idea,” Windsor high school sophomore Kayli said. “For me, I like helping people and making people happy.”

Her friend, fellow sophomore Olivia, who also declined to give her surname, said she saw that people were “thankful for all the help”. The pair were permitted to miss school in order to assist the evacuees who have made it to Calistoga.

California wildfires threaten wine vineyards at start of harvest season
Published: September 17, 2015
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What was removed: Quotes attributed to estate owner Cheryl Lucido on the possible impact California wildfires may have on the growth of local vineyards and the export of wine.The quotes attributed to Lucido appear in numerous places throughout the article. The Guardian also updated a figure that incorrectly stated California vineyards produced 90 percent of wine in the United States.

Cheryl Lucido, the owner of Laujor Estate, said that she didn’t know if their grapes within the fire zone were safe and still standing. “We are all not sure of what is happening right now and we are just hoping for the best,” she said.

Current sugar saturation levels will allow a break in the harvest, Lucido said, but if the evacuation orders remain for days, or even weeks, it could hurt the ability of wineries to harvest grapes in time for wine production schedules. If the fires persist, that could potentially mean increases in prices across the country.

“Vineyards are a good fire break and this can help the fires burn slower and assist firefighters to help stop the fire,” Lucido said, adding that the lower height of the vines helps to slow burning and could potentially extinguish a fire. That won’t do much to save the grapes, but it will help the overall ability to battle the fire, she added.

“Right now it is just a wait and see and hope that it will be all right,” Lucido said, adding that her winery and others have yet to see critical damage that would raise the price of wine across the country. However, she did point out that due to the ongoing California drought and conservation efforts by California wineries, prices have already gone up slightly.

“It’s all about waiting and seeing,” Lucido added. “Right now, nobody has any plans to increase prices.”

Bodies expected to be found among ruins of wildfire, California officials say
Published: September 16, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to Middletown resident Charles Navin, identified in the story as Chuck Navin. Public records reviewed by The Desk reveal at least two people named Charles Navin who lived in Middletown, the city enveloped by fire last September. One Charles Navin now lives in New Jersey; the other passed away in 1996.

“The doors are open and there are some people who are just walking in and taking things,” said Chuck Navin of Middletown as he surveyed the remains of his charred home. “This is why some of us spend the days here, so we can keep the security.”

His assortment of weapons, from guns to swords, are little more than burned relics. “We all just want to try and get things back to normal and the looting is not helping.”

California wildfire gives residents little time to flee
Published: September 16, 2015
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What was removed: Eyewitness quotes attributed to Charles Navin, identified in the story as Chuck Navin. The Guardian also removed a portion of Navin’s quote that had been originally used in the story’s headline.

The embers are still hot around the charred frame of what remains of Chuck Navin’s home in Middletown, California. In the distance, the billowing smoke of the massive wildfire that sparked an evacuation of towns in the northern part of the state is still visible.

“The house burned in 10 minutes,” Navin said on Tuesday. He was one of only a handful of residents who braved the smoky air and the sight of devastation on the abandoned streets of this town just 20 minutes north of Napa in the heart of California’s wine country.

“The police and others told us we had about an hour to evacuate on Saturday, but it was more like five minutes and the flames were all around,” he told the Guardian, motioning to where he was forced to lie down in a makeshift trench when the blaze hit the area. A former military man, he said he refused to abandon his post when help was needed.

“I tried to save two dogs, but the older one bit me and ran off,” he continued. “But when I came back two days later, she was still alive. It was nice in the face of all this.”

Navin was one of thousands evacuated from Lake County towns. In nearby Calistoga, the Red Cross and local volunteers from the surrounding areas have set up a refugee camp; tents and vehicles line the town’s fairgrounds as food, clothing and other essentials are handed out.

San Francisco’s latest high-rent victim: the Cartoon Art Museum
Published: September 14, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian corrected information relating to the 1989 Loma Preita earthquake, which had been misidentified in an earlier version of the story as the “Point Loma earthquake.” The Point Loma fault runs through several cities in Southern California, whereas Loma Prieta affected communities in the San Francisco region. It is not clear if Mayton was responsible for the error.

One of the images is a survivor from the 1989 fire that hit Oakland following the Point Loma earthquake.

Oakland Raiders sign linebacker Aldon Smith despite pending DUI charges
Published: September 12, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story focuses on a football team signing a player from a competing conference who had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Mayton’s story relied on quotes from an interview the player, Aldon Smith, gave with a local television station along with commentary delivered by people identified as fans of the Oakland Raiders football team. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian said the article was pulled because “interviews could not be verified.”

Transgender inmates to be housed by gender preference in San Francisco jail
Published: September 11, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story concerns an announcement by then-San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in which transgender inmates at the city’s jail would be segregated “based on each individual’s gender preference” by the end of the year. Mayton claimed to have learned the information directly from the sheriff’s office, and uses a quote from a transgender woman named Diane as a response to the announcement. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian said the article was pulled because “quotes could not be verified.”

California lawmakers approve assisted dying legislation
Published: September 9, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to a woman named Mary Nguyen who is said to have lost her mother to a brain tumor in 2012. The Guardian also corrected a vote tally on California’s right-to-die legislation as it was passed in the state’s assembly that day.

For Mary Nguyen, a 46-year-old San Francisco resident who lost her mother to a brain tumor three years ago, this is welcome news.

“What I had to go through with my mother was horrible,” she said. “I now understand why people who want to die without suffering want to do that, because they want to be remembered as people who were alive and well, not those who were very sick and unable to really live.”

Officials and gang members alike praise California solitary confinement limits
Published: September 1, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story focuses on a landmark legal settlement between the state of California and the Pelican Bay state prison over the use of solitary confinement. It contained numerous reactionary quotes from people either identified by abbreviated names or who were kept anonymous. It also contained a quote from a spokesperson for a union representing California correctional officers and a quote from a local activist named John Benble. In a statement reviewed online, the Guardian said the story was pulled on May 26 because “a person interviewed in the article denied speaking with the reporter and several other quotes were unverifiable.” The Desk has confirmed the article was actually one of seven that was deleted on March 9 toward the start of the Guardian’s investigation into Mayton’s work.

New San Francisco restaurant replaces humans with iPads
Published: September 1, 2015
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What was removed: A man-on-the-street comment attributed to San Francisco resident Riley Thomas in response to a restaurant’s plan to replace waiters with iPads and other machinery.

Riley Thomas, a San Francisco resident who works near Eatsa, was one of the few patrons who questioned the concept at a time when more and more families are struggling to survive in the city. “I like the food and love the price,” he said. “Still, it worries me that people will begin to think that this is how all restaurants should be run and it could really hurt jobs that are needed right now.”

Police shooting in Oakland among spate sparking concern over use of force
Published: August 28, 2015
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What was removed: Quotes and information that could not be attributed or verified. Specifically, the Guardian removed reporting focused on a community protest that had formed in response to recent officer-involved shootings in Oakland — it is unclear if the protest ever happened. The Guardian also removed man-on-the-street style interviews conducted with people Mayton identified as participants in the protest.

On Friday, as a small gathering of local residents in Oakland took place, many told the Guardian how they believe an alternative course of action should have been taken in order to preserve life.

“I don’t really believe that someone we all recognized and knew who he was is now dead because there was no other course of action. It just really doesn’t make sense to me,” said Oakland resident Ryan Chu, who added that the man killed was “obviously mentally ill, an immigrant and didn’t really speak English that well”.

Other residents said that the man, believed to be a west African immigrant, often slept in the area and was not stable.

California lawmakers pass Fair Pay Act in win for equal pay protections
Published: August 27, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story focused on a bill that bridged the wage gap for men and women working in the same employment positions across California. The article featured quotes from a Silicon Valley recruiter named Salima Houston, the chief executive of a group that promotes women in technology and an interview with a Democratic lawmaker who supported the measure. The article was pulled from the Guardian’s website prior to April 2016 according to cached files reviewed by The Desk. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian explained that the article was deleted because “two sources could not be verified” and because Mayton had repurposed a quote from a local news outlet without attribution.

Can San Francisco establish its first urban vineyard since the 19th century?
Published: August 27, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story features numerous quotes attributed to Elly Hortshorn, one of the organizers of a neighborhood vineyard project in San Francisco. The existence of her neighborhood project has been corroborated by at least one other news outlet, though her name is actually spelled Hartshorn. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian explained that the article was pulled because “the main source claimed it contained errors, including several fabricated quotes.” Mayton acknowledged erroneously spelling the source’s last name, but disputes misquoting her in the story.

Rhino horns for sale in San Francisco’s Chinatown despite crackdown
Published: August 24, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. The story focuses on the illegal sale of rhino horns and other animal-related items in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood. It features a number of quotes with a shop employee identified only as “Tiffany” as well as reactionary statements from a number of other San Francisco business owners. An editor’s note on the original piece explained that some names in the article had been changed for publication. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian explained that the article was pulled because “none of the sources in the article could be verified.”

Prosecutors amend Uber lawsuit to include background check failures
Published: August 20, 2015
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What was removed: Quotes and information that the Guardian says it could not authenticate. Additionally, the Guardian re-worked the headline to read “California prosecutors expand Uber lawsuit over its hiring of criminal drivers” and amended the byline to clarify that some information came from the Reuters news wire. It also changed a sub-headline that originally read: “Sex offenders, a convicted murderer and a kidnapper are among the service’s drivers say prosecutors from San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

For many riders in San Francisco, Uber remains a quicker, and generally, cheaper option than traditional taxis. But users are more aware of the growing issues facing the company, and want Uber to take responsibility for their actions.

“This is a good idea, but they [Uber] have to be aware that this is a society and there are some rules you have to follow and I want to know I’m safe when I get in one of those cars,” said Jennie Robertson, a recent midwest transplant who added she is apprehensive about using Uber “because of the stories I’ve heard.”

California marijuana farmers face country’s first water-related regulations
Published: August 14, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to Robert Anderson, whom Mayton identified as a pot farmer from San Francisco-area community.

“This is going to be good in the long run, but getting all of us growers, especially the small ones like me, is really going to be hard to do immediately,” Robert Anderson, a small pot farmer near Santa Rosa who barely makes the cutoff for the new regulations of a 2,000-square-foot farm, said on Thursday evening.

He was quick to insist however that the downsides of implementation should not outweigh the need to ensure the environment is protected. “We wouldn’t be good pot growers if we didn’t want to keep the land in good shape.”

San Jose police department drone approved despite public concern
Published: August 12, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to a San Francisco-area attorney regarding the San Jose Police Department’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles. A search of records related to the Guardian’s website showed the news organization briefly deleted the story in March before it reappeared under Mayton’s byline a few weeks later, suggesting Guardian editors had early concerns about the integrity of the story that were later resolved in part. (Editor’s note: A Guardian editor on Saturday told The Desk by e-mail that the article was initially removed on March 9th but was later restored to the website with modifications.)

“I want safety for people and I believe these rules will help do that,” said San Jose resident and San Francisco attorney Maria Alvarez. “But I am still concerned about who will be policing and regulating them [police].”

New Zealander is first woman to finish shark-infested California swim
Published: August 9, 2015
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What was removed: A man-on-the-street quote attributed to Sally Lee, identified in the story as an amateur swimmer, in response to a woman’s successful completion of a swim in shark-infested waters.

The reaction from fellow swimmers in San Francisco showed just how much her accomplishment meant.

“I am proud of her and for what she has been able to do,” said 20-year-old amateur swimmer Sally Lee. “I really think she has shown that women can do anything a man can do, and maybe better. I mean she finished on her first attempt and this is really powerful motivation for us training to be open water swimmers.”

The 49ers’ journey from Super Bowl to utter chaos
Published: August 8, 2015
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What was removed: Quotes attributed to a sports fan named Jason Nelson and a bar manager named Mar Oaks. The Guardian also removed a portion of an unattributed quote from the story’s headline. The current version of the article contains a paragraph alluding to the earlier presence of reactionary quotes from sports enthusiasts; it was unclear why the Guardian chose not to remove that paragraph. (Editor’s note: On Friday, a Guardian editor contacted The Desk acknowledging that the paragraph was inadvertently left in error and had been removed after it was brought to light here.)

“I think something is really wrong with the team,” said Jason Nelson, a 39-year-old marketing consultant and season ticket holder. Nelson admitted that he doubts the team is going to be competitive this season. “I just don’t know how it can happen. There has been just too many problems and to be optimistic is very hard. We lose one of our best players on defense and now it looks pretty unorganized. I wonder who is in charge.”

That sentiment was echoed by San Mateo sports bar manager Mark Oaks, who has not missed a 49er game since 2000, whether in person at home games or on television.

“This is really a fall from grace for this team and we as fans really feel it,” he said on Thursday evening. “We all feel that there is no leadership and the team appears to be in disarray. Nobody is stepping in to mold this team and I don’t think they will be competitive this year, not because of talent, but because of all these issues keep coming up.”

Parents of children with ADHD react to video of handcuffed eight-year-old
Published: August 6, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian corrected the name of a website where a source used in the article regularly contributes material. The story features a shared byline with Guardian reporter Amanda Holpuch; it was not clear if the error was due to Mayton or Holpuch’s reporting or if it was mistakenly modified by an editor.

California wildfires threaten to make local wine ‘unpalatable’
Published: August 5, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. (Editor’s note: On Saturday, a Guardian editor contacted The Desk with information on this article; a review of cached Internet files revealed this article was removed on March 9th pending the outcome of an internal investigation.)

Builders battle California city ordinance making them pay for public art
Published: August 2, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian updated the story to clarify that two quotes attributed to public officials were made in written statements obtained by Mayton.

Transgender murder in California leaves community fearful and angry
Published: July 28, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to a transgender woman named “Tiffany,” who was also identified as a source in an article on an unrelated matter involving transgender individuals. The Guardian also corrected the proper name of an organization, the Human Rights Campaign, that advocates on behalf of the LGBT community.

Tiffany, a transgender woman living in San Francisco who declined to give her surname, said there is an overall sense of fear, of both the police and society.

“We try to live our lives, yet we are told what our identity is by everyone, our families to the police, and when we are murdered, police don’t even care that we are who we are, and this is what really scares us about Fresno because it affects all of us transgender women,” she said. “All people deserve to live as we feel and be treated the same way in society. And for our police to continue to think as if our identities don’t matter is more bullying and it must stop.”

Berkeley tightens building codes after balcony collapse that killed Irish students
Published: July 22, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian clarified that a quote attributed to a local official was obtained through a written statement.

San Francisco sheriff’s deputies union sues department over sanctuary policy
Published: July 19, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to a 24-year-old immigrant identified only as a cook named Tomás.

Asked about the city’s sanctuary policy this week, Tomás, a 24-year-old cook in San Francisco who did not wish to give his full name, said that without it he would not be where he is today.

“When I was 18, my friends and I stole some beer and got caught, but the officer didn’t ask about my status and I wasn’t charged,” he said. “I didn’t have my green card or nothing then, but now I do, so if that wasn’t there, I might not be here working and supporting my family today.”

Don’t blame your expensive lunch on minimum wage increases
Published: July 14, 2015
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What was removed: A quote attributed to an unidentified man who questioned the economics of the fast food industry. The piece published by the Guardian was, and still is, labeled as opinion.

A quick stop at the Chipotle in the Financial District of San Francisco revealed the startling reality facing this country: people do not care.

“I don’t understand how these prices just keep going up and why we are paying these young kids so well just to serve food,” said one suit-clad man late Monday morning as he ordered a burrito bowl.

He is one of millions of Americans who believe minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers, or those looking to make some additional cash while going to school, which is not true.

Airbnb San Francisco backlash: thousands petition for more oversight
Published: July 11, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian deleted a quote it said it could not authenticate, and clarified that an additional quote had been obtained via a written statement.

“This is really a huge step to battling for people rather than against,” said Allen Giosso, a San Francisco-based housing activist who supports the petition’s goals. “We are going to finally go to the people to determine how people and companies can use apartments in this city and hopefully it will show that we need better rules and regulations. This city deserves to know more about what is going on and I hope voters see it this way.”

Immigrants fearful as policy debate swirls after San Francisco shooting
Published: July 8, 2015

What was removed: The entire article. Portions of the article rely on an Associated Press story regarding Donald Trump’s comments over so-called “sanctuary cities” in the wake of the killing of a woman that was blamed on an undocumented alien who had previously been deported. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian explained that the article was pulled because “numerous quotes in the article were unverifiable.”

Six people killed and seven injured in balcony collapse at party in California
Published: June 17, 2015
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What was removed: Quotes that were attributed to eyewitnesses of a deadly incident in which college exchange students from Ireland were killed when a balcony collapsed during a social gathering. Those quotes included statements made by a person who was identified as an attendant of the party. The story shared bylines with two other Guardian reporters — one in New York, the other in Dublin — and sourced additional information to “agencies.”

“I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be there when it fell,” said Sarah, a 23-year-old master’s student at the University of California, Berkeley, who had briefly attended the party to celebrate the 21st birthday of a friend.

“To think we were all there smiling and having a good time and now faced with this is horrible,” she added.

One witness to the incident said that it sounded like a massive explosion.

“I can’t even tell you how much fear went through my body when I heard it happen,” the bystander said, who was just down the street when the balcony collapse. “It was like a bomb or something went off. We all were so scared. And then we saw what had happened. It is heartbreaking.”

‘A deaf whale is a dead whale’: US navy sonars could be cause of strandings
Published: June 14, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian clarified that a quote used in the story had been repurposed from an earlier article filed by a different reporter.

Study shows many US canned goods still contain cancer-linked BPA
Published: June 3, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian clarified the number of brands that had been surveyed for a study related to BPA-free cans used in various products. The original report stated that “less than one-third” of the brands had acknowledged using BPA-free products; the Guardian later clarified that number to 12 percent.

Oakland’s last hope for a championship could be Golden State now
Published: May 31, 2015
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What was removed: A quote from a sports fan named Ramon Gutierrez, who was identified as a season tickets holder for the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

“This really could be our best shot and I really hope the Warriors bring home the trophy because it would be really amazing to see the parade and show off this great city,” said season ticket holder Ramon Gutierrez, a 59-year-old Oakland native who says he remembers the euphoria of the Rick Barry 1975 squad that won the NBA title.

“It feels a lot like now,” he said. “People are smiling, they’re happy and after all these years, the stadium is still packed, loud and cheering our boys on. This is great for Oakland and I hope it will bring interest to our other teams.”

Why are so many whales dying on California’s shores?
Published: May 16, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian corrected the type of food whales at the center of the story ate. It had been originally reported that the whales ate sardines; they actually eat anchovies. It is not clear if Mayton was responsible for this error.

NCAA still doesn’t pay its players: now that’s true (March) Madness
Published: April 6, 2015
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What was removed: The Guardian corrected a projection on the amount of money the NCAA was expected to rake in from the annual March Madness tournament that year. The amount was $900 million, though it was originally reported as $30 million. The article was published as an opinion piece.

Heed the call of the wild: don’t cull the wolf
Published: August 14, 2013
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What was removed: Quotes attributed to two different people — a “family friend” and a biologist in Idaho — were deleted. The Guardian also clarified that Mayton’s reporting had been erroneous in stating that nine wolves remained in Washington state, when in fact nine wolf packs remained at the time, and that the spelling of “modus operandi” had been fixed. The Guardian also removed quotes around the word “manageable” in the second paragraph of the opinion piece, though this went undisclosed in the affixed editor’s note.

As one family friend, a hunter, told me recently, the wolves are “killing livestock, attacking people in the natural parks and without action could overrun our landscape”. Although he is right that wolves do attack livestock (and wild prey), there is little evidence that people are being attacked. Wolves rarely are aggressive toward humans unless threatened.

I spoke with an Idaho biologist who has worked with both the FWS and the wolf reintroduction program. He argues that human populations continue to “overuse” hunting in the name of sport and this has reduced deer and elk populations, not just in Idaho, but in the Great Lakes and Alaska. The result?

“Wolves have been forced to look elsewhere for food and sustenance. This results in cattle being attacked because the regular food chain has been disrupted. Hunting wolves won’t stop this problem unless all the wolves are killed.”

He also pointed out that during such culls – which we have seen in Idaho and other areas – it is the adult wolves that are killed, often leaving cubs unprotected and unable to fend for themselves. “It is sad that this sort of thing continues,” he added.

Egypt must go green to save Red Sea
Published: October 14, 2010
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What was removed: Information contained in e-mail messages from Egyptian tourists which the Guardian said it could not corroborate.

A few travellers passing through Cairo earlier this month sent me an email describing their disappointment at the diving they experienced off Egypt’s top resort, Sharm el-Sheikh. What they saw was “completely a different scene” from their first visit in 2004. “The coral was turning grey and dying,” they said.

Over and over I have heard stories from divers about the decaying state of the Red Sea’s coral reefs. It is unfortunate, but true.

Eating less meat is more Islamic
Published: August 26, 2010
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What was removed: Statements from religious officials and an Egyptian journalist that the Guardian said they could not corroborate as true.

Just the other day, an Egyptian journalist was relating to me how he attended a dinner at a local organisation here in Cairo. When people arrived, questions began to fly across the hall: “Where is the meat? We aren’t going to have enough for everyone.”

A sheikh at the Egyptian ministry of religious endowments told me: “Animals are slaves for human purposes. They were put here for us to eat, so talk of vegetarianism is un-Islamic.”

This statement by the ministry official goes against everything the prophet stood for, in the opinion of Gamal al-Banna, a prominent Islamic scholar who has come under attack in recent years for his “liberal” stance. Al-Banna told me that being a vegetarian and Muslim does not break any tradition and is in no way un-Islamic.

“When someone becomes vegetarian they do so for a number of reasons: compassion, environment and health reasons,” he began. “As a Muslim, I believe that the prophet would want the followers to be healthy, compassionate and not destroy our environment. If someone believes not eating meat is that way, it is not like they are going to go to hell for it. It may be the right thing to do.”

Al-Banna continued, when I asked him about the Eid al-Adha sacrifice (which many argue is obligatory), that any Muslim who believes in being vegetarian does not have to slaughter a sheep. “In today’s modern world, ideas and religion change and Islam is no different. We must not remain rigid in our understanding of faith to mean the blind acceptance of anything, killing living beings included. There is no obligation to kill.”

Vegetarianism is not contrary to Arab culture
Published: July 29, 2010
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What was removed: Quotes attributed to Hossam Gamal, identified in the story as a researcher with Egypt’s ministry of agriculture, as well as information sourced to unnamed activists who voiced some outspoken opinions against vegetarianism.

In conversations I had with activists here in Cairo, the sense was that vegetarianism is “too foreign” a concept to take hold in the near future – and they are probably right.

According to Hossam Gamal, a researcher at the Egyptian agriculture ministry, “the exact amount of money that could be saved by reducing meat production is unknown, but I have estimated it to be in the billions [of dollars]”.

Elsewhere across the region, Gamal continues, “we could increase the health and living situation for millions of people if we didn’t have to spend so much on maintaining the desire to eat meat”.

He points to what other experts, such as John Vidal in the Observer, say about the reduction of land for planting as a result of animal farming. “Nearly 30% of the available ice-free surface area of the planet is now used by livestock, or for growing food for those animals,” Vidal writes.

Gamal says that as Egyptians consume more and more meat, the need for factory farming is increasing. According to him, more than 50% of all animal products consumed in the Middle East come from factory farming. By reducing the need for meat, he argues, “we could, simultaneously, increase health of people, feed more and increase our local economies through the use of farmland for crops that we are currently importing, such as lentils and beans”.

Gamal says he is one of only a handful of vegetarians at the ministry and this has left a stigma that is hard to overcome. “I get heckled because I don’t eat meat,” he says, “but if these people, who are ardently against the idea, would look at the reality, economically and environmentally, they would see that it is something to think about.”

Scapegoating Middle Eastern women
Published: May 8, 2010
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What was removed: Quotes that the Guardian said it could not verify, including a quote attributed to Mayton’s wife. Additionally, the Guardian said it had corrected an erroneous attribution to the United Nations when the information in question had in fact been derived from a report issued by the World Health Organization.

The other day, my wife related how one of the office “boys” at the NGO where she worked in Cairo had been alone in the building with a female cleaner. In itself, it shouldn’t been an issue, but when the office’s accountant confronted the office boy (who is actually a middle-aged Egyptian), he stated that this was unacceptable. The reason: the woman could have tried to seduce him.

Cairo-based Sheikh Ramadan Mahmoud told me that if women were to get the “freedoms” of the west, “they would resort to promiscuity and this would damage the family and society. This cannot happen because men would not be able to control their behaviour and harassment and sexual abuse would continue.”

Egypt must negotiate on Nile water
Published: April 26, 2010
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What was removed: Quotes that the Guardian said it could not corroborate as authentic. The news organization also corrected information on how much water was allotted to Sudan under a 1959 trade agreement. A quote that had been casually attributed to a “member of parliament” was later changed to properly source Egyptian official Abdel-Rehim el-Ghoul, though the Guardian did not mention this change in the affixed editor’s note.

Just ask Adel Mohamed, a 44-year-old handyman who lives on the outskirts of Cairo. He told me that last summer, weeks went by when his family and no access to running water. “I worry about what is coming this summer,” he said.

The cause of the water cuts, he and his neighbours argue, is the new upscale developments being erected for Egypt’s wealthiest people. The area’s inhabitants say water is being redirected.

Burundi’s environment and water minister, Degratias N’Duimana, told me recently that his own country, and other upstream countries, “are struggling to improve our infrastructure and agriculture sectors because we can’t develop industries or irrigation lines from the Nile because Egypt won’t let us and there is no money for these projects”. The trump card falls to Cairo.

Khaled Abu Zeid, director of the Egyptian Water Partnership, agreed. “There needs to be a look into desalination projects in Egypt, because that would give the country another source,” he began, “because it could really be a huge boost to Egypt’s water needs. It is expensive, but in the long run, it might make these discussions easier if Egypt is seen as looking for alternatives.”

Waking the Middle East up to animal rights
Published April 1, 2010

What was removed: The entire article. The piece focused heavily on several activists who were working to change local perspectives on animal rights in the Middle East. The story was published as an opinion piece under the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section where editorials solicited to the news organization by the general public are occasionally published. In a statement reviewed by The Desk, the Guardian explained that the article was pulled because “key quotes and an anecdote could not be verified.”

Why do Egyptians love Avatar?
Published March 11, 2010
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What was removed: Quotes that the Guardian said it could not authenticate. Editors also clarified that an accurate quote attributed to Eman Hashim had originally appeared on a social media service.

On Twitter, dozens of Avatar supporters claimed The Hurt Locker was only getting mentioned in the lead-up to the Oscars because it was about Iraq and “makes Arabs look like terrorists”.

“Egyptians don’t like to see reality on the big screen, this is why films such as Syriana and The Hurt Locker are not popular. Egyptians want an escape,” said Mohsen Goma’a, an aspiring filmmaker. But their support for Avatar also misses the mark. They have escaped from reality only to enter a new imaginary world where a film speaks directly to their struggle. “Through Avatar I lived the story of the Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese peoples and the wars waged against them; where the west treats these peoples as if they were the children of the Na’vi” wrote the blogger South Lebanon.

(Note: In the first paragraph cited above, only the section in bold was removed by the Guardian following the audit; the entire sentence has been republished here to provide context)

Stagnation in the Middle East
Published: February 7, 2010
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What was removed: A quote attributed to an unnamed Egyptian journalist that the Guardian said it could not verify as authentic.

One Egyptian journalist told me after reading the article that there are “so many points he got right. Egyptians do want to seem positive in the outside world’s vision. This is the reality. And people are greedy.” 

Cronyism in human rights reporting
Published: December 24, 2009
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What was removed: A quote attributed to an unnamed human rights activist that the Guardian said it could not verify as authentic.

One leading activist told me: “I take all violations seriously, but I do not categorise them in terms of one being worse than the other.”

Feeble excuses for Egypt’s football riots
Published: November 24, 2009
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What was removed: Mayton’s eyewitness account of traveling to a riot zone following a soccer match in Egypt, as well as a quote attributed to an unidentified shopkeeper.

On Friday evening, when I traversed the “war zone” in Zamalek, the generals were cordial, pointing the direction to go. As a foreigner, I found it easy to slip through the checkpoints at every corner. The Algerian embassy was damaged, but not too badly.

Talking with local shopkeepers, who stood only metres from destroyed windows, what they said was shocking but highlights the entire situation of Egyptian denial. “Nothing happened here, it is all the media’s hype trying to show how bad the Egyptians are,” said one shopkeeper. This, of course, was said as scores of soldiers blocked the middle of the street.

In Egypt, it’s who you know
Published: November 5, 2009
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What was removed: Quotes attributed to a waiter named Yahya who claimed to have aspirations of being a journalist but wasn’t sure how to go about pursuing his dream because he didn’t have government connections. Later in the piece, Mayton furthers his point by referencing Yahya’s account; interestingly, the Guardian chose to leave this reference in the current version of the story even after determining that Yahya’s account could not be verified as authentic. (Editor’s note: A Guardian editor reached out to The Desk by e-mail to say the reference had been inadvertently left in the story and has since been removed following this report.)

The other day, as I sat in a local cafe, one of the waiters contrasted Egypt with the US. “How can Obama become president when he was not part of the powerful families?” he asked. The waiter, Yahya, said he wanted to be a journalist but didn’t know anyone in media to give him the opportunity. “I know how to write and studied politics at Cairo University, but my family isn’t known and we don’t have wasta [connections].”

Egypt needs more women in power
Published: October 27, 2009
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What was removed: Quotes that were obtained through an interview with a local official named Hala Mustapha on the issue of women in government roles in Egypt.

Hala Mustapha, a leading NDP woman, told me in an interview two years ago that the ruling party is the only one with women as key figures “because the opposition continues to struggle and they still see politics as a man’s world”. She continued: “The NDP has at least given us a chance and we are working on a number of issues to help empower women. A long way to go still, but we are here and that is a good start.”

Pig slaughter lands Cairo in the mire
Published: October 8, 2009
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What was removed: Several quotes attributed to locals in Egypt, including an unnamed religious observer.

Medhat, one of the rubbish collectors, doesn’t know anyone who had their pigs moved. “They were simply killed and destroyed. Along with it, much of who we are,” he said, pointing to the area just outside his small home where the pigs used to lie, basking in the sun.

Shortly after the cull, in Alexandria, a group of Coptic and Muslim workers who had been laid off sat in a cafe wondering what their next move would be. One of them said: “The killing has left a lot of Muslims cheering, but we know who is the real perpetrator: the government, who simply cannot admit they were wrong.”

That is the crux of the matter.

Listening to the Brotherhood
Published: September 20, 2009
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What was removed: Quotes attributed to various officials associated with the Muslim Brotherhood political group in Egypt.

There is no basis for such attacks, Mohamed Habib, a deputy in the Brotherhood, says: “Any act of violence, or violent tendencies are not part of the Brotherhood’s ideology. For example, Qutb was removed from the group because of his views.”

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a prominent MB reformist leader, recently told me in an interview that the MB “want to create new public opinion that believes in freedom and justice and development and that public opinion could one day create change through a democratic system”.

As for the accusations of violence he said that “some say the Brotherhood will create a public revolution against the regime. It is their right to believe so and whoever wants to do that, go ahead but, not the Ikhwan.”

Abdelrahman Mansour, a young Brotherhood blogger and aspiring journalist, recently showed how the Brotherhood is more and more becoming the group that is ready to create a society of peace and tolerance – a vision espoused by the prophet over 1,000 years ago in Medina.

He said, when discussing the controversial issue of including religion on national identification papers, that the “government should get out of religion. If we didn’t have religion on the ID or other papers, people would not be so quick to be violent. Just remove it and remove religion from government.”

Not the global domination in the name of Islam that many writers would have people believe. Mansour is part of the growing trend among the Brotherhood, who see western ideals as compatible with an Islamic party.

Editor’s note: This page was updated on May 28 to include information on three deleted stories that were discovered through additional searches of cached files, and was updated on May 29 with new information learned through online conversations with Mayton and editors at the Guardian.

The Desk: Guardian freelancer denies claims of fabrication
iMediaEthics: Guardian unpublishes 13 articles over freelance reporter’s fabrication

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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