What time is it? Time to pile on the LA Times for its fictitious Tupac shooting story! When one of the nation's top four papers (or, one that once held that position) splashes an investigative story this big that turns out to be based on forged evidence from a lifelong con man, you can expect a lot of tsk-tsking from the journalism establishment. But actually the reaction has been pretty muted. The reason: most reporters know deep down that they could be done in by fake documents just as easily. Slate's Jack Shafer has a rather gentle column today on what LAT reporter Chuck Philips could have done differently—mainly, don't trust con men, and always vet your documents. Your sympathy for Philips (those were convincing forgeries, after all) might be diminished, though, by this quote he gave in a recent web chat, defending his 2002 story that alleged that Biggie "Christopher Wallace" Smalls was involved in Tupac's murder—he sure was sensitive about forged documents back then:
"It has never been proven that Christopher Wallace was not in Las Vegas on the night Tupac was shot," Philips wrote in response to a reader's question. "Bad Boy produced some computer-generated documents purporting to place him in a recording studio in New York, but they were not time-stamped. Bad Boy said it was going to produce video of Biggie there. They never did that. I have since learned that federal officials conducted interviews in Las Vegas to determine whether Wallace was present. My sources were there and say he and other East Coast figures were in Las Vegas on the night the Southside Crips killed Tupac."