Writer stripped of Eclipse Award

April 9, 1996
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NEW YORK, April 9 -- The consortium that decides the Eclipse Awards for horse-racing journalism decided Tuesday to vacate the 1995 award for magazine writing that was given to Stephanie Diaz last month. The Thoroughbred Racing Associations, the Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers Association made the announcement after reviewing complaints lodged against some of Diaz's writing. Diaz, a free-lance magazine writer and part-time sports reporter for the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise, received Eclipse Awards for both magazine and newspaper writing. She also had swept the two awards the previous year, a feat that had not been accomplished since 1971. The award for magazine writing will remain vacant, but Diaz will retain the newspaper writing award. An article in The Wall Street Journal last month reported that fellow writers pointed to factual errors and hints of plagiarism in two of Diaz's submissions. The article also said there were reports that individuals she quoted in those pieces had claimed they were never interviewed by her. According to the article, the first piece was a profile on ex-jockey Patti Barton and her jockey daughter, Donna. It was published in Backstretch Magazine, a trade magazine for trainers. It is alleged that parts of the story appeared previously in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. In addition, Donna Barton, quoted in the piece, claimed she never spoke to Diaz. Horse trainer D. Wayne Lukas also said he never was interviewed for the story. The second story involved Braulio Braeza, an ex-jockey who now is a jockey's room attendant at Belmont Park in New York.

Baeza told Diaz's attorney that he can't recall speaking to her for a piece published in the Press-Enterprise. The article said Diaz claimed that she never saw the Herald-Leader story on the Bartons and says that she spoke with Donna Barton in a group interview with other journalists. She also claims that she has the notes to prove she interviewed Lukas. Diaz also states that she spoke to Baeza on the phone and at Belmont. She did admit that she made factual errors in the Baeza piece, but denied the other charges.

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