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About those fake bylines in the Chronicle’s real estate section

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Count the Chronicle among newspapers who’ve been running fake bylines on stories from content farm provider BlockShopper.com. A Chron piece that ran Monday leads with news that BlockShopper has discontinued its practice of “using fabricated names as bylines on some articles.” (A lot of its content comes from people in The Philippines churning out stuff and submitting it to editors in the United States.) The Chronicle has used BlockShopper to produce editorial content for its Sunday real estate section since 2009 and for its monthly SFiS Homes section.

For now, at least, it doesn’t sound like the newspaper intends to walk away from BlockShopper. From the (un-bylined) Chronicle piece:

An internal Chronicle investigation Monday found that BlockShopper contributor Jeremy Schnitker  submitted 32 articles under the pen name of Jakes Barnes in addition to 105 articles under his own name. Those were the only false names uncovered in the investigation.

"Obviously, we're disappointed that our internal investigation uncovered these pseudonyms," Chronicle President Mark Adkins said. "We will work with BlockShopper to make sure these issues are resolved."

Brian Timpone, BlockShopper co-founder and CEO of its parent company Journatic, based in Chicago, acknowledged that it used made-up bylines but said they were confined to stories about real estate transactions.

It started the practice in 2007 because people identified through public records as buyers or sellers sometimes objected to the publicity and threatened to sue, he said. The articles needed to have bylines so they would show up in Google News results, he said.

Besides the Chronicle, the latest disclosures of fakery by BlockShopper and parent Journatic also involve the Chicago Sun-Times and Houston Chronicle. There’s more background today from media blogger Jim Romenesko.


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