Writer Admits She Spun Crazy-Ass Nonsense For Examiner.com -- And Didn't Get Caught Until Lawyers' Letters Showed Up
In a letter earlier this month to the media-centric Web site Fishbowl LA, writer L.J. Williamson admitted she began intentionally spinning bigger and bigger bullshit stories in hopes of generating profit while deriving joy from publishing truly ridiculous content on the Net -- and her Examiner.com editors never bothered reading the material.
If they had, they might have questioned the validity of stories about why society must ban peanuts, how wild panicking was an apropos response to the threat of swine flu, or why children are risking death every time they play tag at recess (Williamsons' Examiner stories have since been pulled from the site, but you can read the tag piece here).
The writer says it wasn't until she appropriated a page from Hunter S. Thompson and wrote how anti-vaccine celebrities Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey were hosting drug binges ("Ibogane parties") that lawyers for the actors contacted the Ex -- and Williamson's content began being edited (completely edited, it would seem).
If all of this sounds familiar to SF Weekly readers -- it is. In late 2007, Matt Smith wrote about how an Examiner blogger had -- either unwittingly or brazenly -- committed blatant plagiarism by repeatedly cutting-and-pasting others' reporting into her own work. This wasn't discovered until Smith called the Ex to query about their blog-editing policy. Turns out there wasn't one. It appears there still isn't. If you're a prankster or a disingenuous person (or both), that job would be Valhalla for you -- provided you can live on a meager budget.
Travis Henry, Examiner.com's director of editorial -- apparently not the former NFL running back who sired nine offspring by nine women -- fired back at his departed writer via a comment over at Fishbowl LA. Not quite countering her charge that bloggers' work is completely unsupervised and all management cares about are Web hits, he notes "It is true that we put a lot of trust in our Examiners. It is unfortunate if an Examiner uses this freedom to abuse the system." (You know, when the Unabomber was identified as a former U.C. Berkeley lecturer, the school's chancellor did not say "We have a great number of math professors -- and very few of them sent explosives through the mail." Warrants mentioning.)
Henry goes on to actually turn his missive into a recruiting pitch for more bloggers. But we'll give the last word to our own Smith on this one; what he noted in 2007 is apparently still valid:
"By betting their bottom line on getting people to work unsupervised for free, companies might get no better than what they paid for."
H\T | Laughing Squid