Chron Admits Journatic Stories May Have Had Fake Bylines

Categories: Spaced City

chron-journatic.jpg
Tucked neatly beneath a photo of Pitbull and next to the lotto numbers in Tuesday's Houston Chronicle A section (page 2, if you're curious) was a "Note to our readers" that detailed the Chron's recent discovery that stories provided to them by Journatic and affiliate Blockshopper had used pseudonyms instead of actual writer names.

The admission by the Houston daily was the result of a story from National Public Radio program This American Life, which ran an extensive report about Journatic, a news outsourcing service that provides content for lager newspapers for real estate and hyper local online and print editions. In the case of the Chron, Journatic provides content for the paper's Ultimate sections.

The briefs and business releases containing the false bylines were written by a group of Blockshopper writers and editors. Journatic Chief Executive Officer Brian Timpone said he made the decision to use the bylines to improve the search engine performance of the content, while insulating his writers from reader complaints.

Papers including the Chicago Tribune have come under fire recently for using the controversial service, which outsources its local news reporting to writers and content gatherers in the Philippines and hires freelance reporters for a few dollars per story. In the case of the Tribune, it laid off 20 writers after hiring the service.

The relatively startling admission by Timpone that they change names to increase search rankings and protect their writers from complaints underscores the controversy surrounding the organization which apparently offered $50 to its writers if they did not speak about the company to other publications.

According to the Chron, Blockshopper has now ceased using false bylines. In fact, the company has simply stripped stories of any byline.

"We apologize for this misrepresentation," said Jeff Cohen, editor of the Chronicle. "We have expressed our disappointment to the vendor. We have clearly conveyed our expectations to them and will monitor them closely to be certain this does not happen again."

This does, however, bring up the bigger question: Is outsourcing news really a good idea? As pointed out in both the NPR and Chicago Reader stories linked above, this not only costs journalists their jobs, but it calls into question how in-depth stories can be when written by people not from the community. It also makes one wonder if the somewhat shady practices of Journatic and Blockshopper are contributing to the demise of the print journalism industry.

Props to the Chron for being honest about the admission. Here's hoping the service they are using hasn't contributed to their recent layoffs.

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Carrollredd
Carrollredd

i live in houston and not only is the chronicle phony and liars,but all the media and politicians  in the city lie to the people all the time as they rip the houston public off. we got county commisners here that drive county cars plus wives have one also to use, then charge the county about 600.00 a month for using their own cars. but nothing is ever dione except let them retire with full benifits,just like the food stamps,given to baby factories and illegal s baby factories get up to a thoudand a month in stamps,sell half for half price to buy drugs and cigarettes the elderly who worked all their lives here in america at not much pay get 10 to 15 dollars a month i have been banned from  the offices for life for raising hell about it but they would have to kill me to shut me up as i am 80 and dont care,i cant even go to jack in the box to buy a meal,but that is life in houston one more and i will go, we have a gay mayor which is fine,but the c.eo of metro transit gets 800.00 a day to sit in his office to watch gay porn on his metro computer.he also was appointed by the mayor because he also is gay.gets a week without pay,but put it on his vacation time so it dont cost him a dime

nobody here
nobody here

What people need to realize is that Brian Timpone is the epitome of a sociopath. I have had many dealings with him - and he has the charisma/charm of a sociopath but absolutely no morals or ethics whatsoever.  He's a classic case - and he's the son of a disbarred IL attorney Leonard T Timpone (look it up - the behavior that led to his disbarment is unbelievable - he invades everyone else's privacy so there's some info on him!  Besides, it's 100% public.).  So, the apple does not fall far from the tree (genetically and behaviorally).  He is a disgrace to journalism with these asian outsourced content mills - and what he started with Blockshopper was never ever journalism.  It was just done with an intent to get ad revenue from people's nosy behaviors.  If I google you and your home price comes up, naturally I will probably click that.  That's it.  Timpone claims it helps people figure out if they are being "over taxed" but most of blockshopper's tax info is wrong and all of that data can be found at the assessor's office.  Blockshopper does not help anything related to taxes.  It just makes money by exploiting people's personal property transactions by making sure they come up in a google search.  And, they write often inaccurate stories about the people who do buy homes. If you don't believe me, there are over 200 complaints all over the web about blockshopper from people who have asked Timpone to remove their names / addresses that result in a simple google search (healthcare practitioners in mental health, police offers, stalker victims, you name it) and Timpone does nothing.  You can see many complaints on the consumer affairs website, but Timpone doesn't care.  He just wants the $1 in google click advertising revenue for each "news story" that he lists.  When google serves up blockshopper content like "IT manager buys house for 1 million" when you just type in the name of the IT manager - this can be a huge problem for said manager if he doesn't want the world to know about his assets or has any other reason to keep his purchases private - but does Timpone care?  No.  He will not take a listing down for ANY reason.  The fact that he convinced major media companies to work with him is shocking and insane to me - but charismatic sociopaths can do anything, so I guess I should not be too shocked.  I've dealt with him personally and I know that personality extremely well and he is out of a textbook.  The people who contracted his work are just hitting the tip of the iceberg of what he is - but they are going to have to learn the hard way.  I recommend they read the book Snakes in Suits to see what they are dealing with.  

nobody here
nobody here

What people need to realize is that Brian Timpone is the epitome of a sociopath. I have had many dealings with him - and he has the charisma/charm of a sociopath but absolutely no morals or ethics whatsoever.  He's a classic case - and he's the son of a disbarred IL attorney Leonard T Timpone (look it up - the behavior that led to his disbarment is unbelievable).  So, the apple does not fall far from the tree (genetically and behaviorally).  He is a disgrace to journalism - and what he started with Blockshopper was never journalism.  It was just done with an intent to get ad revenue from people's nosy behaviors.  If I google you and your home price comes up, naturally I will click that.  That's it.  Timpone claims it helps people figure out if they are being "over taxed" but most of blockshopper's tax info is wrong and all of that data can be found at the assessor's office.  Blockshopper does not help anything.   There are over 200 complaints all over the web about blockshopper from people who have asked Timpone to remove their names / addresses that result in a simple google search (healthcare practitioners in mental health, police offers, stalker victims, you name it) and Timpone does nothing.  He doesn't care.  He just wants the $1 in advertising revenue for each "news story" that he lists.  When google serves up blockshopper content like "IT manager buys house for 1 million" when you just type in the name of the IT manager - this can be a huge problem for said manager if he doesn't want the world to know about his assets or has any other reason to keep his purchases private - but does Timpone care?  No.  He will not take a listing down for ANY reason.  The fact that he convinced major media companies to work with him is shocking and insane to me - but charismatic sociopaths can do anything, so I guess I should not be too shocked.  I've dealt with him personally and I know that personality extremely well and he is textbook.  The people who contracted his work are just hitting the tip of the iceberg of what he is - but they are going to have to learn the hard way.  I recommend they read the book Snakes in Suits to see what they are dealing with.   

Turtletxn
Turtletxn

Please tell me Dale Lezon is one of them!

Dont
Dont

Your headline is oddly in error. The Chronicle admitted that the bylines were fake; there's nothing "may have" about it.

David Houston
David Houston

The world's like one big starving artist's sale these days, everything's a cheap knock-off that was outsourced or originated very far away...  $10 an hour is the going rate for almost any trade or specialization; with the line 'what you don't like it, well there are thousands of others who will be happy to work for that much...' And oddly enough there are... There's no quality to any of it, but it was cheaply bought like those $9 boat sneakers from Mondomart - they don't quite fit but they'll do the job.  CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP is the cry of today! But, you get exactly what you pay for, as the saying goes. No matter though, people have no sense of quality anymore, and quality newspapers are a thing of the past. Oh and what a sad time for journalism, when the first port of call for any 'journalist' is now Facebook to see what sleazy things he/she can dredge up on the person in the story... Soon we'll reach the point where all news will come from the same sources, one mind, one editorial viewpoint, one agenda... Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Nachrichtenredakteur... But I digress...

Anon
Anon

Hey, could someone shoot a photo of the editor's note with their phone and send it to jim@jimromenesko.com?

journaticinsider
journaticinsider

 That's Journatic's dirty little secret - charging the Chron for press releases written by someone else. If the Chron ever starts comparing PR's to the "articles" - the jig is up.

Riter
Riter

Timpone's excuses make no sense. He was worried that these people were going to sue writers back in the Phillipines over Blockshopper stories? What are the odds the complaintants could even find them? If they tried to find the fake writers and could not... don't you think someone would have mentioned that by now?  

Paula R. Robinson
Paula R. Robinson

That's plain deceit from the folks who are supposed to be truthtellers and seekers. ..FoxGetPositionWork.blogspot.com

Jim C
Jim C

I prefer bock newspapers to lager newspapers.  But that's just my personal taste.

Brian
Brian

A bock IS a lager.

Evan
Evan

So how many of them were strippers?

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