Upon hearing Saulnier’s accusation, Howry said, the paper did all its could to vet December Rain, including pulling its public tax records, and found nothing untoward. He said the paper took the extra step of holding the story for a day and a half while waiting for a response from Fairfield Greenwich, which issued a two-sentence statement, but provided no background or context.

“Had December Rain had a spotty past, had we found problems, would we have gone ahead? Heaven sakes, no,” Howry says.

He says that by reporting that Saulnier couldn’t later be reached and that his group had suspended operations, the paper gave readers enough information to decide whom between the two sides to believe.

“A reasonable person would assume that with Fairfield Greenwich’s denial, and suddenly this guy disappeared, who are you going to think is the guilty party?” he says.

He says the Star and the Journal faced different situations since the Journal never called Fairfield Greenwich, and the Star did.

Still, Howy concedes that the headline is wrong. “There should probably be a clarification in terms of that headline. In terms of the text, there’s nothing to correct there.”

He says the story is not over, and that the paper is still trying to find out the truth.

“It continues to unfold, you continue to try to find the truth, and you try to do it as honestly as you can,” he says. “With any daily newspaper. If we had to nail everything down to the last detail, we’d never have anything to print.”

December Rain’s phone still has the same message, though its website is up and running
including the page that takes your credit card for donations. I’d say hold off on that.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.