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Chronicle won’t dump outfit responsible for fake bylines, Bushee says

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Chronicle’s use of content farm, under fire for paying low-wage writers in the Philippines to produce “local” news in the United States and disguising them with fake bylines, doesn’t appear to be going away. The newspaper acknowledged fake bylines in its real estate section two weeks ago, and said it was investigating BlockShopper, a unit of widely-discredited news outsourcer Journatic. But despite protests within the Chronicle newsroom, Editor in Chief Ward Bushee (pictured) has resisted calls for the newspaper to disassociate itself from BlockShopper.

A piece posted to the Pacific Media Workers Guild website yesterday (and published at Fog City Journal) by guild freelancer Rebecca Rosen Lum says that Bushee told guild representatives Carl Hall and Michael Cabanatuan last week that steps will be taken to end the phony bylines. But the Chron’s top editor also indicated that the newspaper has no immediate plans to divorce itself from BlockShopper.

That didn’t go well with Hall, the guild’s executive officer. An excerpt:

“This level of deception would get our members fired,” Hall said.  ”The reaction from the Chronicle seems to be oddly muted. Who knew about it? Who decided it was OK?”

His message for Bushee is a simple one: “They should can that outfit and hire journalists to do journalism.”  Any section edited by news staff should be held to the same standards as the others. Otherwise, lower standards in one part of the paper and its website degrade the entire operation. “People start wondering if the staffers are real journalists,” Hall said.  ”They are willfully deceiving readers.”

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