Des Moines Register food columnist Jennifer Miller resigned from her position weeks after she admitted to lying in one of her articles.
Miller has been working at the Register since 1988, primarily covering topics related to food and beverages. In her May 5 column, Miller reported that she participated in a sauce-tasting event for Jethro’s restaurant on April 27. Shortly after the article was published, she confessed that she did not attend.
As Miller writes in the opening paragraph of her May 11 column, “First, I need to tell you something. I lied.” According to her, she was on vacation the week before the tasting and “had to work ahead.” When she was done with work that Friday, she said she became ill and rested at home for the next four days.
“So I haven’t tasted the wing sauces,” Miller writes, “but I know they’re all delicious, because Jethro’s wings just are.”
Des Moines Register executive editor Amalie Nash told Iowa Free Press this was an isolated incident and was not brought to her attention until Miller self-disclosed the truth with her second column. On May 31, Nash informed the Iowa Free Press that Miller has resigned.
“This was a serious ethical breach and was not consistent with our standards,” Nash writes in a May 27 email to Iowa Free Press. “We also had a staff meeting to reinforce our ethics policy. We take readers’ trust very seriously, and being truthful in reporting is essential. Unfortunately, we fell short here, but are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.”
Cityview contributor and former Register reporter Michael Gartner was not satisfied with either Miller or Nash’s explanation for what happened, as he expressed in the “Civic Skinny” column for Citview on May 20.
“She had plenty of time to kill the column, or rewrite it, but she didn’t,” Gartner writes.
Gartner pointed to the code of ethics practiced by the news division of Gannett, which publishes The Des Moines Register, and how Miller violated this code, including the provision that reads, “We will be honest in the way we gather, report and present news.”
“She made up a story. She broke the ethics code. She damaged the newspaper’s credibility.”
Nash cooperated with Gartner and responded to the allegations.
“I participated in the Cityview story by providing Michael with information and answering all the questions he had,” Nash writes.
Gartner concluded, “Jennifer Miller should be fired.”
The circumstances surrounding Miller’s resignation are still unclear. Nash said that she could comment on the situation but not the specifics of discipline.
Miller has not responded to requests from Iowa Free Press for comment.
Photo Credit: “Foods (cropped)” by Keith Weller, USDA ARS – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.