The LA Times, That Tupac/Diddy Story, and the Value of The Google
Okay, I'm not trying to pile on Chuck Philips or the Los Angeles Times over the now-retracted story about Sean "Diddy" Combs' alleged involvement in a 1994 attack on Tupac Shakur. Ever since The Smoking Gun ran a withering dissection of the documents on which the whole story depended and the Times was forced to issue a sweeping apology for the piece, that pile has gotten pretty damn big, with both readers and other journalists getting in on the action.
I just want to make sure our readers get a good look at Jimmy Sabatino, the known con artist who appears to have produced the bogus FBI documents that fooled the Times (but not the Smoking Gun). Back in 1999, when I was a staff writer at Miami New Times, my colleague and friend Robert Andrew Powell wrote this story about Sabatino. Read the whole thing, and be sure not to miss this part describing how Sabatino would routinely run up five-figure hotel bills without paying a cent:
Say he's targeting a hotel. The first thing he does is write a letter to a major company such as Disney or Polygram. The response invariably comes back on the company's letterhead and is signed by a company official. A few days before checking in, he'll fax the hotel's front desk with a letter from the official at the company announcing that James Sabatino will be staying at the hotel and that the company will be paying all his charges.
This is a guy for whom lying, including by faking documents, is like breathing—and who repeatedly tried to worm his way into the rap game. I just Googled "Jimmy Sabatino," and this story came up as both the second and third results. Granted, it probably wasn't that high a couple of weeks ago, but the Smoking Gun found it and included a link to it in their report.
All you aspiring journalists out there, remember, The Google should never be your only reporting tool, but it does come in handy from time to time.