Background here and here.
TVNewser acquired the memo that ABC News head David Westin sent to staff about the findings of the internal investigation into the work of Alexis Debat, a former consultant with the network. Some relevant excerpts:
...This review was extremely sensitive, as it required going back to confidential sources in this country and abroad. It also involved traveling to Pakistan to confirm first-hand the circumstances of Mr. Debat's work there.
Early in our review, we learned that there were other interviews Mr. Debat had published in France that the subjects denied had been conducted. We reported this story immediately on ABC News.com.
We have now completed our review. After going through all of the stories Mr. Debat worked on for ABC News, we found no instances of false reporting. Mr. Debat was not the sole source for anything ABC News reported. Moreover, we confirmed with Mr. Debat's confidential sources that they had given him the information as he'd claimed in contributing to our reports. We also confirmed that Mr. Debat traveled to the locations in Pakistan as he had claimed and talked with the sources he had identified.
Our review did uncover four details of Mr. Debat's reporting that we couldn't confirm. In one case, he mis-identified which branch of U.S. Special forces had engaged in a particular operation, although we did confirm the other facts surrounding the operation. We also found disagreements over the location for two meetings reported on by Mr. Debat, although, again, we could confirm the other facts surrounding the meetings. And, one of the people whom Mr. Debat identified as attending a meeting would neither confirm nor deny that he/she was a direct participant. None of these discrepancies would rise to the level of a formal, on-air retraction because none of them was material to the substance of our report.
So none of the stories he worked on need to be retracted, but does this mean ABC News won't inform viewers of its findings? Why not explain the detailed investigation that took place?
Also, an AP story about the memo that ABC has on its website seems to have a misleading headline. (This appears to be AP's doing, not ABC's; see here.) It reads, "ABC: No Errors Tied to 'Fake' Consultant." But Westin's memo clearly states that there are details and facts that can't be confirmed. Is that really the same as "no errors"? Also, the AP story does not detail the discrepancies outlined in the memo. Why not?
ABC News is also instituting changes to its practices:
There are three changes we are making in our internal practices based on what we've learned from this case.
Starting immediately, we will include both our News Practices team and the corporate Human Resources Department in the hiring of all consultants, reviewing in particular claims of prior employment and educational history. We will also undertake a review of current consultants where appropriate.
When we hire a consultant, we will make a determination of exactly how that person will be identified on all programs and platforms.
News Practices will be alerted each time that we include a consultant in our reporting to ensure that the consultant is being used and identified properly.
We undertake extensive efforts in all of our reporting — and particularly in our investigative reporting — to check and double-check information we are given so that no one source can compromise the truth of what we present to our audiences. Based on our review, our overall systems and procedures worked in the case of Mr. Debat. Nothing in our review, of course, condones the instances of resume enhancement or fake interviews that Mr. Debat published elsewhere.