Following the retraction of its series Caliphate, the Overseas Press Club Board of Governors announced it has rescinded the Peabody award to the New York Times-produced podcast and its team, including host Rukmini Callimachi, producer Andy Mills, and editors Larissa Anderson and Wendy Dorr. The paper reported it made the offer to return the award, which was accepted by the Peabody Awards.
“As the standard for quality media, the integrity of the Peabody Award is paramount, and we appreciate the professional manner in which the Times has handled this matter,” said Peabody Awards Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey P. Jones. “We will receive the return of the award, recognizing the mutual respect both organizations have for each other’s longstanding record of journalistic integrity,” he said in a statement.
In April 2019 the judges from the Peabody awards said the 12-episode Caliphate had an “absorbing style” and was “a wonderful example of what long-form audio reporting can and should sound like” as it awarded the podcast a trophy. Caliphate was the first narrative podcast created by the New York Times.
The company last week retracted Caliphate, saying the series did not meet the newspaper’s standards for accuracy. The podcast was based extensively on the story of a Toronto man who created a false identify for himself, sharing stories of how he traveled to Syria to take part in killings for Islamic State. Canadian police have since charged Shehroze Chaudhry, who called himself Abu Huzayfah in the podcast, with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.
In an editor’s note, the Times said during the course of reporting for the series its team discovered “significant falsehoods and other discrepancies” with Chaudhry’s narrative that he was an ISIS executioner. The decision was made to proceed with the project, it explained, noting that it included discussion in the series’ sixth episode about the discrepancies and the efforts the team took to fact-check elements of Chaudhry’s story. After an internal review, the paper now says that did not go far enough. “It is also clear that elements of the original fact-checking process were not sufficiently rigorous,” the note said, adding, “Times journalists were too credulous about the verification steps that were undertaken and dismissive of the lack of corroboration of essential aspects of Mr. Chaudhry’s account.”
In an interview with NPR, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet declined to say if any reporters or Times Audio team members would be disciplined. Baquet did say Callimachi would be reassigned from the terrorism beat.