Stephen Glass, a former journalist who fabricated dozens of articles, told Duke students in a journalism ethics class Monday that he has repaid $200,000 to The New Republic and other magazines that published his work.
Monday’s disclosure appears to be the first time Glass has revealed that he repaid The New Republic, Rolling Stone and the publisher of the public policy journal Policy Review for more than 40 stories he fabricated.
The New York Times reported in October that Glass—who the Times described as one of "journalism’s most infamous fabulists"—paid Harper’s Magazine $10,000 as repayment for a discredited article and noted that Glass planned to pay other publications. In his conversation with students in News as a Moral Battleground, a class on journalism ethics taught by Bill Adair, Knight professor of the practice of journalism and public policy, Glass said he made the payments based on what the organizations had paid him, plus interest.
“I should have done it earlier,” Glass said of the repayments. “I took that money and wrote lies.”
Glass wrote many articles for The New Republic in the late 1990s with fabricated sources, quotes and events until he was caught in 1998, when a digital writer for Forbes magazine investigated Glass’ story “Hack Heaven.”
One of the reasons Glass did not repay the companies earlier was because of his fragile mental state, he explained, noting that he was suicidal after he was exposed and recovered with the help of therapy.
“I was terrified I was going to get caught at every moment,” Glass said. “Therapy saved my life.”
Glass was working in The New Republic as an associate editor and fact-checker when Forbes found he had fabricated several of his stories. He was also in law school at Georgetown University at the time.
He made subsequent headlines after trying to become a licensed attorney in both New York and California. After passing the bar exam in New York, he withdrew his application in 2004 when he was told he did not have the appropriate moral character to be a lawyer in the state.
After Glass fought an extensive battle to join the bar in California, the state Supreme Court eventually ruled in January 2014 that he was not fit to practice law in the state.
Despite the lengthy battle, Glass, who works as a paralegal at a personal-injury law firm in Beverly Hills, Calif., said he understood why the decisions were made and why many people today still find him untrustworthy.
“What I did was wrong on so many levels,” Glass said.
Glass, who was in his 20s when he fabricated his stories, said that his immaturity impacted his actions. He added, however, that many of his peers in the industry were in the same age group.
“I was the exception,” Glass said. “Using me to smear journalism is unfair.”
A 2003 movie titled "Shattered Glass" was based on the controversy surrounding Glass, and he wrote a novel the same year titled "The Fabulist."
Glass said he regretted the impact the fallout from the scandal had on his family and co-workers.
He reiterated that he did not blame people for being suspicious of all of his actions even now, almost 20 years after his journalism career ended. He said that he is trying to convince anyone he can of his current honesty. As an example of how he tries to make sure others know he is being as genuine as possible despite his past, Glass noted that he refused financial assistance from Duke for Monday’s visit.
Adair confirmed that Glass paid for the visit himself and noted how useful it was for his students to meet him in person.
“It’s remarkable that he’s paid that much money to reimburse those publications,” Adair said. “He expressed deep remorse about what he did.”
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