Friday, July 18, 2014

When A Reporter Crosses The Line

By Ralph Cipriano

The president of the FOP says there are credible allegations that two Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily News reporters behaved unethically by buying diapers and food and paying utility bills for a woman they wrote about who accused police of misconduct.

If the allegations are true, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says, the reporters crossed an ethical line and may have tainted the criminal investigation of the cops accused of misconduct.

In the wake of the charges, Daily News reporters Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker aren't talking, and neither are their editors. Only new owner and interim Inquirer Publisher H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest has spoken. "We stand behind the work of our reporters," Lenfest said in a canned statement defending the Daily News and its prize-winning series, "Tainted Justice." But Lenfest's statement also said that "if such 'sound evidence' exists, we will pursue it."

One impeccable source, however, has already stated in writing that the reporters crossed the line by giving gifts and buying food for another character in their series. The source is Wendy Ruderman, who in her book BUSTED A tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, discloses that she bought groceries and gave gifts to former police informant Ventura "Benny" Martinez, who in Tainted Justice, also accused the police of misconduct.

"As journalists, Barbara [Laker] and I couldn't give him money, but we tried to help him in other ways," Ruderman writes on pg. 169 of BUSTED. "I bought him groceries, rushing over to his home with bags of vegetables, turkey and Dora the Explorer fruit snacks. I bought his son a Razor scooter for his birthday and told Benny to say it was from him. I wondered if Benny sold the scooter for drugs, but at the time, I was so plagued with guilt that I couldn't see through his manipulation and lies."

"Barbara and I knew the things we did for Benny crossed the line," Ruderman wrote. "But that line -- the one between reporter and human being -- got blurry."

Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker
In BUSTED, when Ruderman isn't talking about her husband's butt, or confessing what a lousy wife and mother she is, she's coming clean about her complicated relationships with her sources.

On page 218 of BUSTED, Ruderman writes that the wily Benny told her he might be murdered, or he might commit suicide. And that the FBI and internal affairs investigators were telling Benny that "Barbara and I didn't give a shit about him, we just wanted a story."

"I was tortured by this," Ruderman writes. "I spent hours talking to Benny on the phone, trying to console him while trying to console myself.

[Let me get this straight. In BUSTED, Ruderman tells us in great detail what a lying, manipulative, drug-addicted sleaze ball Benny is, but we're supposed to take as gospel whatever he says about those crooked cops? With witnesses like this no wonder the feds didn't indict anybody.]

"Benny did a number on my head," Ruderman writes, "and for the longest time, I couldn't disentangle myself from him. I bought Benny groceries for Thanksgiving and toys for his kids at Christmas and for Gio's birthday. At my weakest moments, Barbara [Laker] stopped me from giving him money."

"Wendy, don't do it," Ruderman quotes Laker as telling her. "She [Laker] reminded me that it would be unethical and cross the line as a journalist; she saved me from myself."

Reporters aren't supposed to pay for stories. They do, however, routinely pay for lunches and dinners in the process of coaxing a story out of a source.

It's hard to believe, however, that anybody's going to sell out for a box of diapers or a bag of groceries. Did the cops overplay their hand? Are they claiming that Ruderman and Laker parlayed diapers and toys into a Pulitzer?

At his press conference last week, John McNesby, president of FOP Lodge No. 5, went way beyond freebies. McNesby, without offering any proof, accused Laker and Ruderman of intentionally fabricating parts of their stories.

Wait till McNesby reads BUSTED and finds out that Laker and Ruderman are a couple of secular Jews who, whenever they get in trouble, pray to their dead parents for help from above. Holy ancestor worship!

All of this zaniness leaves new owner Lenfest in a mess of his own making.

Big Trial reported earlier this week that several newsroom sources said that Lenfest had killed an Inky story that explored the allegations against the Daily News reporters. Does Lenfest now have to tell Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow to resurrect that story from the newsroom graveyard?

Or does he let the Daily News address the issue with a spirited defense in its own news columns?

Either way, Lenfest looks bad. He's already known as the new owner-publisher who killed a story that might have embarrassed the company he just paid $88 million for.

And if the Inky and Daily News do nothing, it will look and smell like a cover-up presided over by Lenfest.

The Inky is already going out of its way in a not-so-subtle campaign to resurrect its dead story.

Inquirer editor Marimow, who usually responds to questions from Big Trial with silence, basically confirmed the scoop about Lenfest killing the story by writing in an email, "It's an internal matter, and it's not open for discussion."

Thanks, Bill.

In the Inky story on McNesby's press conference, reporter Craig McCoy kicked it up a notch by writing that Police Commissioner "Ramsey said he was disappointed by reports that The Inquirer had declined to publish an article that explored the allegations involving the Daily News reporters."

Yo Craig. Those "reports" appeared in only one place --

Why is the Inky allowed to campaign like this while over at the Daily News, editors and reporters act like they've been gagged by some lawyer?

Over at the FOP, McNesby seems like he's just getting started on a public crusade. Meanwhile, somebody with access to supposedly confidential federal documents is leaking them. The allegations supposedly contained in witness statements against the reporters may or may not be true. But if they're down on paper and support the cops, expect to read them somewhere soon. If not in the pages of the Inquirer or Daily News, then maybe in the next FOP bulletin from McNesby.

While Laker and Ruderman had nothing to say publicly to either the Daily News or Inquirer, on her Facebook page, Wendy Ruderman isn't keeping quiet.

"So, I admit I'm having a bad week," Ruderman wrote over a big picture of a diaper. "How to convey that I (and Barbara Laker, the best, most honest and ethical reporter I've ever worked with) did nothing wrong to ... my enemies. It's like trying to reason with a foaming rabid raccoon. I feel dismayed, perplexed, incredulous, frustrated, sad, and more."

Even her sister, Ruderman wrote, sent her an email that said, "I just want to know, did you give a source a diaper???????!!!!!!!"

"Thanks Amy for making me realize how crazy this is," Ruderman wrote.


  1. I wonder if Bill Marimow really wants to investigate "Tainted Justice". It might bring up memories of his Pulitzer about police brutality in 1978. Remember that every officer mentioned in is series except for the Homicide Six was exonerated by the Feds and that officers who were given "target letters" involving police brutality and civil rights violations (including me) were eventually exonerated. The problem was it took about 18 months to two years to resolve situation. In the meantime, while I still worked the street in the old 23rd District, it prevented any transfers to special units. I wanted to go to the Juvenile Aid Division but that was put "on hold".
    The series just didn't pass the smell test with me then and I look forward to see if anything is done.
    Best Wishes,
    Syl Mason

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Let stop the nonsense that news organization don't pay for stories. There are dozens of cases where newspapers and tv networks paid for stories and interviews. They may have called it something else like paying for photos or research material, etc. But, in reality it's paying for news. And, it will keep on happening.

  4. Two more communists working for the Pinkquirer

  5. I am currently being violated in many UNETHICAL & UNPROFESSIONAL Ways by Wendy Ruderman & Barbara Laker. They are paying (Bribing) people with addiction issues on the streets of Kensington Ave. to make false claims against me in hopes of sensationalizing their story. What can an ordinary citizen do against these crooked women? I don't consider them to be reporters of the truth!!!

    1. My name is Jeffrey Jackson. I hope to get guidance from someone on how to file official complaints against these two unethical & unprofessional so called "Reporters".


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