Clark Hoyt, in his "Public Editor" column in the New York Times, has written an insider account of the Joe O'Donnell fiasco at the Times. It's titled "Pictures Worth a Thousand Questions."
After a chain of communications, a former Times staffer, Gary Haynes, was the first to contact the paper with the news that its obituary might be erroneous. Haynes thought "...the newspaper might have taken the wrong picture from its files to illustrate O’Donnell’s obit.
"The truth" continues Hoyt, "was worse and much more painful. The Times—like the Associated Press, Time magazine, CBS News, The Tennessean in O’Donnell’s hometown of Nashville and other news organizations—had been taken in by a man who for years had inflated his life story.
"It was, said Bill McDonald, the editor of obituaries, 'our worst nightmare.'"
Hoyt notes ruefully that the story made him think of an old newsroom maxim: "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out."
Mike (Thanks to Chuck Albertson)