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Boston Globe retracts story by freelancer it says was fabricated

BOSTON -- The Boston Globe told readers in an editor's note published Friday that portions of a story it ran on a seal hunt off Newfoundland and Labrador were fabricated by a freelance reporter who was not at the scene.

The Globe said the reporter, Barbara Stewart, did not attend the event, which had actually been postponed because of bad weather, and that Globe editors should have demanded attribution for details she provided about the hunt.

"The story should not have been published in the Globe, and the Globe has discontinued use of the freelancer," the Globe said in the editor's note.

The article, published in Wednesday's editions of the Globe, said that the largest seal hunt in a half a century had resumed, involving hunters on about 300 boats "shooting at harp seal cubs by the hundreds, as the ice and water turned red."

In an editor's note published Friday, the Globe said: "The article included details of the day's hunt as if it had taken place and without attribution or other source, as if the writer had witnessed the scene personally. ... The author's failure to accurately report the status of the hunt and her fabrication of details of the scene are clear violations of the Globe's journalistic standards."

Helen Donovan, the Globe's executive editor, said the newspaper became aware there were problems with the story after it was contacted by the Canadian federal fisheries department.

Donovan said Stewart, who worked for The New York Times for about a decade, had written three pieces for the Globe since last year after moving to Halifax, and no other problems had occurred with her work.

Stewart did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment. A message left for a listing for Barbara Stewart in Halifax was not immediately returned, and a cell phone for Stewart repeatedly rang busy Friday night.

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