Apparently this kid set out to show how easily bloggers could be duped into running with bogus stories and quotes. As it turns out, the “mainstream” media is much more gullible. Imagine our surprise.
Earlier this year, Mr Holiday decided, by way of an experiment, to get himself quoted as an “expert” source by the writers of articles and blogs on as many different subjects as possible. The big catch: he wasn’t an “expert” in any of the subjects in question, and some of the time, he wouldn’t even speak to the writers.
Mr Holiday ended up not just appearing on dozens of blogs, but also in supposedly blue-chip forums. On Reuters, he was quoted as a bright young member of “Generation Yikes”. On ABC, he claimed to suffer from insomnia. When MSNBC carried a piece on “flu etiquette”, he popped up telling a fictitious anecdote about a boss who sneezed in his face while he worked at Burger King. Readers of the CBS news website were regaled with a made-up tale about Mr Holiday’s former workplace.
Mr Holiday’s stunt, which was carried out to promote a book about his career as a publicist called Trust Me, I’m Lying, was facilitated by a website called Haro, or “help a reporter out”. The site allows hard-pressed journalists seeking “expert” case studies to connect with people who fancy seeing their name in print.
“I think of the site as a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with journalism in the era of the online medium,” he told The Independent on Sunday. “My premise was that plenty of blogs would be fooled, but not traditional outlets. In the event, I found that mainstream news organisations were just as easily taken in.”
Part of his success is undoubtedly testament to his skill as a liar. But plenty can also be attributed to sloppy journalism. Each day, Haro would email him a list of reporters in need of a case study, with outlines of the subject they were writing on. He’d reply to the ones he thought might be easily fooled.
Many writers of articles in which he was later quoted never actually bothered to speak to him: instead they exchanged emails. And when they did insist on a phone conversation, Mr Holiday would often ask his personal assistant to pretend to be him.
Reuters, ABC, MSNBC, CBS, New York Times. Apparently their layers of fact-checkers and editors all fell down on the job. What a shock. Noticeably absent from the outlets he bamboozled: Bloggers.