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Posted on 08/28/2002 1:31:22 PM PDT by JennysCool
New Times contributor is fired for faking story about nonexistent NBC "reality" show.
BY TONY ORTEGA
New Times L.A. freelance writer Antoine Oman was fired last week for fabricating a story about teenage rape victims Tamara Brooks and Jackie Marris.
Oman, who had a short history with the alternative weekly, was escorted from New Times' offices on Friday afternoon and made no comment.
His story, published in last week's issue, claimed that the NBC television network was about to announce that Brooks and Marris had been signed to host a new prime-time reality show produced by an amoral lowlife named Billy Slattery. The program, supposedly slated as a midseason replacement, was to be called Survive This!.
According to Oman's story, the show would have pitted teenage contestants against recently paroled predatory sex offenders, all of whom would be released in a remote and wild locale.
NBC, however, said that no such show is planned, and that Slattery does not exist.
Neither, it turns out, do the other so-called "experts" whom Oman quoted in his story.
"This is a dark day for New Times, and it puts a black eye on all of Los Angeles journalism," lamented NT editor Rick Barrs, who has helmed the feisty publication since its 1996 inception. "I can only extend my deepest apologies to the Peacock network, which I should have known would never stoop so low for ratings."
The story generated a large response, Barrs says. "The good news, however, is that many of our readers are highly educated, and detected Oman's fabrication. I just wish I hadn't been so easily duped."
Others weren't so quick on the uptake, however, and Barrs said he regretted any inconvenience this may have caused them.
Online gossip reporter Matt Drudge, for example, briefly included a link to the fallacious story on his Web site, drudgereport.com.
Drudge had e-mailed New Times the morning the story came out, Thursday, August 14, but received no response. A day later, Drudge prominently linked to the New Times story on his site, apparently too impatient to wait for a reply from the newspaper confirming the validity of the story.
Hollywood Reporter writer Scott Collins called that afternoon, just as Oman was being hustled out of New Times' spacious West Los Angeles offices. The savvy entertainment scribe said he'd seen through Oman's falsehoods after an extensive database search turned up none of the experts listed in the story. But he said other writers at the Reporter were convinced of the article's veracity and were busy hunting down leads about Survive This!.
Barrs expressed regret that other journalists, including a People magazine writer, felt compelled to call for more details on the story.
"I hate to waste their time. I know how valuable it is," Barrs said.
New Times also regrets the confusion it caused Alissa Chirchik, who described herself as a television industry employee. "I actually quite enjoyed your unbiased reporting," Chirchik wrote via e-mail, "but I am mainly writing to see if there are others out there as OUTRAGED at NBC as I am... Please respond with any information you have on other organizations that want to stop this program from ever seeing any air time."
Chirchik's search for compatriots, however, was not in vain. Jennifer Gottlieb, for one, also felt her pain, and sent New Times a cry for help. "Thank you for informing readers of NBC's plans for the new show Survive This!. I would like to write to NBC in protest of it," Gottlieb scribbled via e-mail. "I find it to be exploitative and sadistic. Can you e-mail me NBC's address and mention to which department I should send my letter?"
Celeste McCullough of Beverly Hills summed up the outrage many other readers felt. "I have never been so shocked and disgusted in my entire life," she wrote. "The way Bill Slattery goes on (very bluntly) about the show, it doesn't seem real. What intelligent person with any morals would come up with an idea to have convicted sex predators chasing women through the woods? Would he send his sister or mother on this show -- I doubt it. As far as the "fires down below' [a reference to Slattery's assertion that some sex offenders had been tamed from years of incarceration], they DON'T die out after sitting in prison, and ARE still the predators they once were. Get an education instead of producing sick TV shows. He is a filthy pig and perhaps should be castrated himself."
Barrs expressed regret that Slattery was not an actual person -- if for no other reason than for the producer to feel the full force of McCullough's eloquently penned wrath.
Other readers pleaded for evidence that Oman's story lacked truth. "If this story is true, this is the most repulsive, nauseating, disgusting bunch of putrefied offal I have ever read," wrote Jim Byers of Laguna Hills. "Before I go sending hate mail to NBC, I need to know if Billy Slattery is a real person, an actual producer for NBC. For the hope of mankind, I pray that he is not."
Mr. Byers, your prayer is answered.
Oman's story elicited a very different response from reader Tom Gibbons, who in a telephone call felt compelled to express his doubts not about Slattery and NBC, but about Brooks and Marris and their miraculous escape from convicted multiple felon Roy D. Ratliff.
"Their stories just don't add up," Gibbons told NT. The self-described "meddler" described his reasons for believing that Ratliff, who abducted and raped Brooks and Marris, had actually gotten a bum rap. Gibbons claimed that he'd seen enough to make it plain to him that Ratliff had been wrongly killed by sheriff's deputies, and was guilty of nothing more than consensual, if illegal, sex with a minor.
"Statuary rape," Gibbons called it, and asserted that Ratliff should not have been gunned down for it.
Gibbons may have a point. Surely, statuary rape would be its own penalty
Darn. And I was so looking forward to the segment with the cheerleaders....
Aw, come on. That piece was hilarious.
(Furthermore, the only two New Times articles that mention "Antoine Oman" is the original article and this one.)
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