Talk:"Piano Man" is not British actor, search down to three leads
This interview was conducted on the talk page of the first article. I have checked out Steve on Wikipedia and he seems to have sufficent credability to justify publishing a claim based solely on his comments - i've also compared the images available and agree that they are very similier. → CGorman (Talk) 20:46, 19 May 2005 (UTC)
- I say excellent work and kudos to both of you. I hope that this man can regain some sense of identity soon, whomever he is. --CGW
is this funny
Just wondering, how is this wakynews. It doesn't seem very funny? Bawolff 22:40, 19 May 2005 (UTC)
- I agree. It's definitely a sad human story, albeit with some wacky elements. And I sincerely hope that whoever he is, he will be identified positively very soon. Stevietheman 01:59, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- Please look for the word "funny" in Wiktionary:Wacky. Uncle G 03:19, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- Sorry, I ment no offense, I just cut and paste the catorgisation from the first article. → CGorman (Talk) 14:34, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
Erm, has any attempt been made to simply contact Geoff? If he is reachable under his regular phone number, then he's probably not in a hospital with amnesia. (And, frankly, from looking at the photos, the noses look quite substantially different.) There's a phone number in Euless, Texas, associated with Geoffrey Betts, which can be found by doing a WHOIS search on the domain name. If nobody else does, I'll try to call that number in a few hours. I'm not really comfortable with this story being a lead until we've at least done some basic reporting work.--Eloquence 03:09, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- As the article says, yes. Steve says that he tried to send electronic mail to him. I thought about ringing up Geoff's agent, but I looked around and couldn't find out who that was, or whether he indeed had an agent. Also, be aware that there is more than one Geoffrey Betts in the world. Your finding one in Texas who answers the telephone may not prove that you have found the Geoffrey Betts referred to by this article. When Steve first made his claim, I performed a search, too, and I found a Geoffrey Betts who plays the guitar and who is a Capricon. Finding him won't mean that I've found Steve's Geoffrey Betts, though. Uncle G 03:19, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- The phone number is the listed contact for his website, it is therefore certainly the one of the man we're talking about, or his agent.--Eloquence 03:40, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- It has been more than a day since I sent him the email, with no response. However, feel free to contact him any other way. I'll be quite happy if the mystery man is not Geoff. Stevietheman 03:36, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- Erik the article clearly warns readers that this is meerly unconfirmed speculation backed up by a single source, so I see no problem with featuring it prominately - the main purpose of it is to raise awareness of the Piano Mans case - I (and Steve fully agrees with me) that the more people who know about the case the better the chance of someone knowing him. → CGorman (Talk) 14:36, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
I tried phoning the number for geoffreybetts.com, which is 817-455-8778, but the man on the phone did not give his name, and denied being Geoffrey. Possibly it is Geoffrey, but being an actor, he values his privacy. Steve, please call this number and try to determine whether this is the man you know.--Eloquence 15:37, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- I called, asked if he was Geoff... and he said "No, it's not". He didn't sound at all like the Geoff I knew. The thing about these domain records is that a phone number is entered when the domain is purchased, but over time, the domain owner's number changes, but oftentimes they fail to update the record. Stevietheman 16:55, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
what is 'furture' a typo of? Kaf 08:36, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- I think it should be 'further' and have amended it. Hope that's OK with everyone. Laura Thomson 16:29, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
Is he "Mr. Nobody"?
Philippe Naughton of the Times Online seems to be the only reporter out there who has been serious about finding out the identity of the Piano Man . So, I have forwarded a link to this article to him, to add to the information he has collected about this case. Hopefully, this will further help piece together who this man is. Stevietheman 18:00, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
- Great, that follows perfectly with our policy of encourageing story propagation. → CGorman (Talk) 18:24, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
Has anyone seen the film "Lavender Ladies" with Maggie Smith and Judy Dench? This story is an exact duplicate of the plot of the film, except that in the film, he is a violinist, not a pianist. I think it must be just an elaborate dare.
Looks like I was wrong
Yep, Betts' website is now refuting the Piano Man story. It's a shame that he didn't respond to my queries early on, as I would definitely would have backed off this story. Oh well... At any rate, the police investigating this has narrowed it down to three  or four  names, according to today's news. Stevietheman 15:38, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
- I hope this will be a lesson in cautiousness. It's important to not jump the gun in cases like this, even if it might potentially give Wikinews a big scoop. Imagine such a story was published about you, with lots of personal details from web searches and some acquaintance. Sure, "we were only trying to help" - but were we really? If so, why was it so important to publish the story, instead of investigating further first? Were we really trying to help, or to get a big story, at the expense of another person's privacy? I realize everyone acted in good faith, but I'd like us to follow a stricter code of ethics in cases like this in the future. We don't want to be perceived as a rumor mill by the outside world. If you feel the need to add a disclaimer like "nothing has been verified yet", it might be a good idea not to publish the story in the first place.--Eloquence 03:20, 25 May 2005 (UTC)
- I absolutely disagree. If we followed your advice, no original reporting would ever get placed here for fear of getting something wrong. Stevietheman 15:04, 25 May 2005 (UTC)
- Further, there needs to be an understanding that there's no possible ways for contributors with meager resources to get the kind of verification you're looking for. Besides, I did produce evidence to back up the case. Sometimes speculative stories are incorrect. Perhaps articles like this should be relegated to a different section like "Op-Ed," but to exclude them entirely is what is ethically incorrect. Stevietheman 15:14, 25 May 2005 (UTC)
- Imagined problems. We were cautious. Moreover, everyone in the world can see that we were cautious, because our open process means that they can read the talk page discussions that we had. As for invading someone's privacy, we didn't do that, either. We linked to stuff that Geoffrey Betts had himself chosen to publish to the world, including his own publicity photograph. Indeed, given that the only possible source of non-public information about the person that we had is the interviewee, who was deliberately reticent in that regard, there is no way that we actually could have invaded Geoffrey Betts' privacy, since we posessed no private information to make public. There is no ethical issue here. Nor is there a problem of perception. We were no more a rumour mill than all of the other news organizations were when they reported on other people who thought that they had identified the man. Our only difference is that by happenstance we had a firsthand interview with the identifier. The only real problem was that the interviewee happened to be a fellow Wikinews editor, a reporting-on-your-own-people situation that is difficult for any news organization. We dealt with that reasonably well. Uncle G 17:11, 25 May 2005 (UTC)
I'm not arguing for exclusion, I'm arguing for caution in publishing. There's nothing wrong with collecting evidence and collaborating, it is this collaboration phase that should have been extended in this case before going public. As for Geoff's privacy, see this diff - clearly, this does go into Geoffrey's privacy, and it does draw upon information not publicly available. Yes, Steve was rightfully cautious, and again, everyone acted in good faith, but it would have been preferable not to publish this in the first place.
If our only excuse is "lack of resources", then we shouldn't be doing something which we don't have the resources to do properly. But I think we do, by virtue of being a collaborative project -- it is possible to coordinate an investigation, we have done so in the past, and for the success of Wikinews it is absolutely crucial that we do so in the future. We made a basic attempt to do so, but could have done more: Which directories did we check? Which friends or acquiantances of Geoff did we call? And so forth. I did my little part by looking up the phone number and calling it; if 10 Wikinewsies all do a little bit, you can get a proper investigation going. This is what I would like to see, rather than premature publishing being justified by a possible good that could come out of it. The fact that Geoff referred to the people who mistook him for the piano man as "morons" is an indication that he was not too happy with the outcome.
I'm not just preaching, I am also practicing. I have personally spent several hours following a lead of a person who claimed to have been wrongfully accused of possessing child pornography that was placed on his computer by malicious software. Even though he cited several reports about his case in his defense, after exchanging several e-mails with him, I concluded that his case was not waterproof enough to report about on Wikinews. I'm right now investigating another story, and not sure if something will come out of it or not. I'm a journalist in real life and have conducted investigations over several months (e.g. this one). This is the way journalism works -- you don't know whether you have something ready to be published until you've finished your investigation, and all your work may very well be for nothing. Here on Wikinews, we're not paid for the time we spend, and I understand that we all want to see something published sooner rather than later. But that is a dangerous principle to adopt; our standards of truth and ethics should be as high as they possibly could be. --Eloquence 22:09, 25 May 2005 (UTC)
- Although I did not review the specific article cited above, previous articles were reasonably cautious - considerably more so than the "professional" journalists. There are varying degrees of examination, in part based on the seriousness of the allegations. Issues of child pornography carry some of society's most severe repercussions, often more serious than violent sex crimes, and should be treated with extreme caution. But an issue of identity, a simple human interest story with nothing more at stake than goodwill, a lower level of examination is suggested in favour of timeliness and freshness. - Amgine/talk 22:34, 25 May 2005 (UTC)
Piano Man aka Geoffrey Betts?
Prior to the interview between Mr. Gorman and Steve Magruder, Steve contacted me to see if I had heard from Geoffrey since Geoff is my former business partner. I informed Magruder that I had reason to doubt that the Piano Man and Geoffrey Betts was one and the same since I knew that Geoff had been active as "Geoff" recently. Due to confidentiality obligations I won't elaborate.
I suggested that Steve allow me to do some investigation to determine whether or not Geoff was missing. I left several messages for Magruder requesting links for other photos online, and expressing that I was confident that the two were not the same. When I finally saw photos, I knew 100% that it was not Geoff and left another message stating that. I know Geoff very well and also stated that I knew for a fact that Geoff was in the US early May 2005.
On May 20, 2005, after exhausting efforts to get a response from Magruder, I emailed C Gorman stating that I did not believe Geoff to be the Piano Man. Since then, Geoff has gone public disputing the claim made in the article.
I feel that this was a wreckless endeavor by publishing this article without first doing what every journalist does... verify facts first. I was quite upset by the fact that Wikinews published an article that included very private details that violated the privacy of both myself and Mr. Betts. In addition, because this article now is included in ANY search on Geoffrey Betts on Yahoo, Google or any other search engine, this compromises Mr. Betts' opportunities as an actor. I can't even imagine how many telephone calls and emails Mr. Betts has received due to this.
I understand that Mr. Magruder is a credible contributor to this organization. That does not excuse the fact that this article was not thoroughly verified before publishing, especially since my responses to Mr. Magruder provided substantial doubt on what was being claimed. So in my opinion, the interview should never have taken place. This of course opens up legal issues, since #1: statements made in that article were known to be disputed, and #2: that has caused concerned related to invasions of personal and professional privacy, since statements made also address private matters between Mr. Betts and myself.
Eloquence is correct in expressing the need for caution in the future. Continuing to post uncredible articles without verifying facts or with complete disregard to privacy eventually will cast a poor image on what should be a valuable and respected resource for the internet community. Articles such as this is the equivilent to what you would read in the "National Enquirer" or the other tabloids where "facts" are not the main objective. I would hope that this organization doesn't wish to be compared to such publications.
The Human Side to Reporting News
I've been Blogging about the circulation of misleading information on my own website for quite a while now. From my experience jumping to the wrong conclusions based on partial information and then presenting those conclusions as "fact" can have very real consequences to those who become the subject of the topic of discussion. It becomes even more important to maintain integrity of information when it's presented as a featured news article.
A case I would like to use as an example is that of Dr. Carol Stoker, a NASA scientist who found herself caught up in the middle of a media storm as a result of information that a Space News reporter chose to publish as an attempt to scoop the journal Nature. That decision led to careers being ruined.
Dr. Stoker was working with her husband, Dr. Larry Lemke, on research in Rio Tinto, Spain as part of their research to discover life on Mars. During a private party, Dr. Stoker and Dr. Lemke excitedly discussed their work and the possible implications that their research might have on the exploration of Mars. Brian Berger, the writer for Space News, overheard discussions between other guests who were attending party and concluded that Dr. Stoker and Dr. Lemke were about to publish their research in Nature. To get the scoup, he began drafting an article suggesting that her research was providing new findings related to life on Mars.
Berger references what he considers "reliable" sources who attended the party. However, one person that neither Berger nor anyone else in the news community contacted to confirm the information was Dr. Stoker or Dr. Lemke before publishing. He was too focused on "scooping" Nature rather than taking time to confirm the information with the original source.
The result to this publication was a frenzy erupting that was immediately disputed by the rest of the scientific community and also by NASA in an unprecedented public denial. The damage caused to Dr. Stoker and Dr. Lemke is irreparable. Professionals of their field rely on publication of their research and findings in Nature, but because of the premature and misleading article written by Berger, Nature would most likely hesitate in publishing any future research paper by these two scientists.
A simple delay in publishing this article may not have produced the excitement that one suggesting "Life on Mars" would produce, but it would have saved the careers of two very distinguished NASA scientists if confirmation had been obtained first. Now, these two scientists will have to endure the stigma that comes with being the center of a controversy such as this for the rest of their lives. The damage is done.
For Geoffrey Betts, and even myself, the publication of the interview on May 19, 2005 with Steve Magruder has had serious consequences on our personal and professional lives. Mr. Betts and I were already in a volatile position in negotiating through personal and professional issues. Magruder's connection to both of us and to this article has resulted in additional obstacles that we now face. Members of the "non-acting" or film industry wouldn't understand how controversy can impact our career potentials. Think of it in this way... if you were a producer for a film production and casting actors, would you want to hire an actor who has been named as a possible Piano Man? Producers search the internet for information about actors. Actors are a commodity and their reputations add to the production value.
The consequences could easily have been avoided, especially considering that I had personally disputed the claims that Betts was the Piano Man. There was sufficient information provided by me to delay the interview and that would have avoided embarrassment for parties involved. The very fact that I had stated to Magruder that both Betts' website and his IMDB pages had been very active in recent weeks would be enough to question the validity of the claim. But rather than use that information wisely, both an interview was published by this organization and authorities were contacted without providing all of the available information. An investigation, whether by authorities or by journalist, can never reach an accurate conclusion unless ALL facts are taken into consideration. In this case, not all facts were considered. Nor were they presented.
Responsible journalism requires the writer to research thoroughly and confirm facts before attempting to "scoop" other news organizations. A journalist has a responsibility to consider every possible consequence their publication might have on the individual lives involved, especially if the information presented is questionable. When factual information is concluded, then the decisions have to be based on the greater good.
While readers and even the journalists continue on toward their next story, Mr. Betts and myself will be dealing with this for quite some time. The damage has been done and now we have to maneuver through the obstacles created as a result and hope that this situation can be repaired enough to reach our objectives. In the meantime, Mr. Betts' personal information has been posted for everyone to see and he's dealing with repeated phones calls and letters. And let's not forget his website... a website he uses for professional purposes now has to include the disclaimer that he is "Not the Piano Man", thus connecting him with this unfortunate situation.
There are personal lives behind every "scoop" and the excitement of being the first to report a story has a very high price for someone else. We should all consider the price that our own excitement might have on others... it's part of being human.
Sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake. I was wreckless, thoughtless and inconsiderate. I published a potentially hurtful and misleading story that turned out to be entirely wrong. However - I wish to remind you all that I did state clearly that the article was only speculation and was unverified - I put that in bold text at the top of the article. When I was first approached by Steven, I was excited - as was he about raising awareness about the unfortunate case of the piano man - so I published an interview with him - I made no claims that he was correct - I just presented his opinions as just that - opinions. Im not the only person to have written articles about who the Piano man might be - many crediable and well known media outlets have speculated about him. Some have said he is a steet artist from Paris, others say he is a Canadian - and the latest claims are that he is Czech. Yes I made a mistake, but I am neither the first nor the last person ever to do so. I apologise unconditionally to anyone offended by my article and I will attempt to research things better in the future. Thanks for your attention. Oh and just remember that if this was traditional media - you, the reader, whould have never gotten an apology like this, the wiki process really does allow things to be seen clearly in public view and mistakes to be rectified. → CGorman (Talk) 15:29, 30 May 2005 (UTC)
- Thanks, CG. I also have a responsibility here -- I should have intervened earlier. Wikinews is an opportunity for us to get journalism right, to listen to individuals like Jkris97 above rather than dismissing their concerns out of hand, to be open to criticism and willing to correct and improve our standards. There are certainly countless tabloid publications which have thrown people's lives into disarray because of poorly researched (or deliberately manipulative) articles, published without any disclaimer like the one we had in this article. However, I think we all agree that these publications shouldn't be our role model.
- We should learn from traditional journalism where it is doing a good job, and try to emulate its highest ethical standards and its greatest accomplishments, but we should not copy its mistakes. Let us try to never become arrogant and self-righteous, but to be humble servants to the public. One of my general principles in life is that a mistake is only truly regrettable if you don't learn from it. Your apology above demonstrates that you are willing to learn from past mistakes, and that is really all anyone could ask for. Wikinews is a constant learning experience, a collaborative school of journalism. We are all but students who may become teachers one day.
- Are there some practical conclusions we can draw from this episode? One thing that would be useful is to start seriously developing Wikinews:Code of Ethics, with specific examples and recommendations. Would you be willing to take the lead in this, CG?--Eloquence 16:11, 30 May 2005 (UTC)
- I have elaborated somewhat on the existing content and added a case studies section to the page which outlines my errors. Erik, you know that this is a rare mistake on my part, I passionately believe in Wikinews, and in this case I rushed at the chance to land us a scoop - obviously without thinking. I have certainly learned a lesson and am genuinely sorry for my actions; but I hope you do not think any less of me - I have written almost a hundred articles, made 3,600 edits to the wiki and done my best to be a a model citizen in everyway. I have battled many vandels, started many of our institutions (Story preparation, Country of the Week etc.) and always promoted a high ethical standard. I will strive to be a better writer in the future - but I really hope I have not lost the respect of you or anyone else. → CGorman (Talk) 21:19, 30 May 2005 (UTC)
- Absolutely not! :-) In fact, through your sincerity, and your drive to to better, you have just gained a lot of respect from me, and probably everyone else. Wikinews would be a lot worse off without you -- you have contributed not just great material but also many good ideas, and been very friendly and pleasant to work with. I'll be looking over the Code of Ethics page later today and see if I can give a hand.--Eloquence 05:38, 31 May 2005 (UTC)
The Ability to Apologize is a Valuable Trait
Having read CGorman's public statement of apology, on behalf of myself I can extend a grateful acceptance. The damage has been done and as with any situation such as this, Mr. Betts and I both will have to sort through this situation and resolve it to the best of our abilities. As I noted, it's a very volatile situation that has been aggrevated by these new circumstances.
However, in extending recognition for Mr. Gorman's apology, I also have to recognize that Mr. Gorman's role in this was based enitrely on information provided to him. Information that was incomplete, but based on Mr. Magruder's previous postings, would appear credible. However, since we all can recognize this to be a mistake to learn from, allow me to offer some advice based on this situation.
First, there are three subjects noted in Mr. Gorman's original article... 1) Geoffrey Betts (Suspected Piano Man)... 2) Steve Magruder (The Interviewee)... and 3) Although not mentioned by name specifically, I have been indirectly referenced and as I recall there were suggestions of a possible connection between myself and Geoff's alleged disappearance related to financial woes resulting from our company's failings. The article did link to the company's website.
The interview with Steve Magruder should have been the first in a series of steps taken to investigate this. Magruder, an obviously credible contributor to this organization, should have merely opened the door to proceed further. The next step would obviously be to attempt contact with Geoffrey Betts. If that failed, then the "business partner" mentioned in the article would be the next obvious step toward confirming anything, since the Fair Statement Website would have provided a way to contact me at that time, and as a former business partner it could be assumed that I would still have some dealings with Geoff, even if it might only be through attorneys. Magruder would also have been able to provide contact information for me since he did contact me just prior to the interview.
So what can be learned from this situation? First... the importance to follow up on ANY leads available before publishing an article. Thorough reserch and investigation is important. The very fact that I was even referenced in connection to Betts would be reason enough to follow up with contact with me after attempts to contact Betts failed. I may not have been able to provide any direct knowledge at all... OR... I may have been able to confirm or dispute the claims made in the origional interview. Nonetheless, a follow up would not have been a waste of time. You never know what that lead may produce.
Second... confirm ALL statements made in the interview, especially if those statements reference other parties. Since issues were addressed that related only to Betts and myself, Magruder could not have been in a position to make a credible assessment of the situation. Also, since it was mentioned that Geoff was working on a film production, a simple search on IMDB would have led to the film's official website, and contact with the film's producer and director. They may have been able to either confirm or possibly dispute the alleged disappearance of Betts, since they would have the means to contact him.
So the lesson here is the importance to thoroughly follow up on leads, no matter how trivial. Just in that interview there was a wealth of leads that were presented and had they been followed up on could have offered a new approach with this article.
So to Mr. Gorman, from myself your apology is accepted with gratitude, and I'm sure that if Geoff reads it, he'll feel the same. Life is about lessons, and the mistakes made with this article holds no comparison to the difficult lessons that Mr. Betts and I have had to learn during the past two years. The important thing is that we learn from those mistakes. Godspeed. Jkris97 18:57, May 30, 2005 (UTC)
- I have learnt - or more accurately - been reminded of a very important lesson. This was a once off mistake on my part; I was fueled by a passionate desire to land wikinews a scoop. However regardless of my good track record - I messed up - I was inconsiderate and naieve. I really am sorry. To help avoid a situation like this again, I have incorportated a case study into our Code of Ethics which outlines my numerous mistakes and gives advice on how to avoid them. Hopefully learning experiences like this will help make us a better news source in the long run. I have to date written almost a hundred stories without any of the mistakes I've made in this one and i've made over 3,600 edits to the wiki. I am one of this projects strongest and most active proponents - and the fact that I let passion cloud my judgement really shows that anyone can make a mistake. I, once again say - sorry to you, Geoff, and our readers. → CGorman (Talk) 21:27, 30 May 2005 (UTC)