Madison Magazine’s reaction: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we guess.”
Update: My readers have done some investigating, too. See their findings at the end of this post. Update 2: Frontline Desk has pulled the author profiles.
“At Frontline Desk, our team of writers work hard to make sure that you have access to all the latest news as soon as it happens,” reads the blurb in the About section of FrontlineDesk.com.
The website’s journalists have very impressive credentials. For example, “Shawn Smith is a senior news reporter for a top cable news channel in Washington.” (I know of Shep Smith, of course, but I’m not familiar with Shawn.)
Yes, we’ve seen this before; remember the fake reporters of CompareCamp.com?
Now meet a few of the fake journalists at FrontlineDesk.com:
Kim Jordan is “a well-known journalist and on the upper hand talented with cutting edge information about technology of every era. Her resume reflects all her work she has done, and surely does not fail to impress. Moreover working with big names in the journalism industry, she has gained experience that is beneficial in many ways. Working for more than 10 years, she has made in the industry.”
“Kim Jordan” is actually a fashion blogger named Niki. She tells me: “I was informed [about the site] by another individual recently and I sent a note to frontlinedesk.com demanding that it be removed.” She didn’t get a response.
Peter Alexander “is a perfect individual to enhance knowledge about technology as his best personal interest,” says his Frontline Desk bio. “With the reviews he provides, the pros and cons of latest and developing technology, you surely won’t be left back [sic]”
“Peter Alexander” is actually Scranton attorney Matthew G. Boyd. He in fact does have some writing experience, according to his law firm bio: “He has authored several articles and has given numerous presentations and training seminars on employment issues.”
Mona John “is an American journalist who received her journalism degree from the University of Chicago,” according to her Frontline Desk profile. “She is an award winning author hailing from Detroit Michigan.” Her Frontline Desk posts include “Hand Washed Utensils Boost Up Immune System in Children” and “First Impression of Apple’s new Photo app For Mac.”
But a reverse image search reveals that “Mona John” is actually a teacher named Holly Clark.
Maria Marshall is “an individual with uprising talents of reporting and writing,” says her profile. “Maria, a college student, will surely be a dominating factor in the future. Her articles have recently gained positive response and readers prefer her articles due to her captivating abilities.”
“Maria Marshall” is actually Women Who Code founder Sasha Laundy. She tells me: “They appear to be a spam site and I’m not sure why they picked me. I have contacted them and asked them to remove me but unsurprisingly, they haven’t done anything.”
I’ve also asked Boyd and Clark if they’re aware that the site is using their photos. (I wasn’t able to identify the other “authors and editors” on Frontline with reverse image searches.)
I’ve contacted the site and asked some questions about their “journalists” and unauthorized photo use. Calling the number listed on Frontline’s privacy page gets you Pegasus Taverna in Detroit’s Greektown.
NEW — Peg McNichol writes: “FrontlineDesk.com is, according to Internic’s ‘whois’ search, registered by Enom, a company held by Demand Media. I don’t feel like it’s a huge jump to conclude which company might be behind an alleged news site with fake bylines.”
An anonymous Romenesko reader writes: “I liked your post on Frontline Desk. I thought you might also be interested in noting that the “disclaimer” on Frontlinedesk.com is remarkably similar to the one on Scripps.com. In fact, David Giles, vice president and deputy general counsel of Scripps, is named as the designated agent for Frontline Desk on frontlinedesk.com’s site.” Update: Giles tells me he’s not familiar with the site and is not its designated agent. “First I’ve heard of it,” he says.
Paul Woolverton writes: “‘Robert Anderson’ is listed as the author of a lot of science type stories on the Frontline Desk site. See bottom of story at this link for an example. But the photo is of Alvin Boyd of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.”
Wes Richards writes: “It ain’t just the fake reporters… it’s the faked original stories. Put any of their items into [this plagiarism checker] and you’ll see what I mean.”
UPDATE: The New Yorker has put Editors’ Notes on five of Jonah Lehrer’s posts. They all close with this line: “We regret the duplication of material.”
Laura Hazard Owen writes on paidContent: “Lehrer shouldn’t be excused for cribbing from himself. But in some ways, it’s not that surprising that it happened.” Why? Because, she says, Big Ideas aren’t unlimited.
Last Tuesday, The New Yorker posted Jonah Lehrer’s “Why Smart People Are Stupid.” It begins this way:
Here’s a simple arithmetic question: A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs ten cents. This answer is both obvious and wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat.)
For more than five decades, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton, has been asking questions like this and analyzing our answers. His disarmingly simple experiments have profoundly changed the way we think about thinking. While philosophers, economists, and social scientists had assumed for centuries that human beings are rational agents—reason was our Promethean gift—Kahneman, the late Amos Tversky, and others, including Shane Frederick (who developed the bat-and-ball question), demonstrated that we’re not nearly as rational as we like to believe.
Last October 15, the Wall Street Journal published a Jonah Lehrer piece headlined “The Science of Irrationality,” It began this way:
Here’s a simple arithmetic question: “A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs 10 cents. This answer is both incredibly obvious and utterly wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and $1.05 for the bat.) What’s most impressive is that education doesn’t really help; more than 50% of students at Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology routinely give the incorrect answer.
Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton, has been asking questions like this for more than five decades. His disarmingly simple experiments have profoundly changed the way that we think about thinking. While philosophers, economists and social scientists had assumed for centuries that human beings are rational agents, Mr. Kahneman and his scientific partner, the late Amos Tversky, demonstrated that we’re not nearly as rational as we like to believe.
I called NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson and asked if he was aware that Lehrer’s June 12 post was a rewrite of his Wall Street Journal piece. He said he wasn’t. He’s now trying to reach Lehrer, who is in California.
Thompson tells Romenesko readers: “It’s a mistake. We’re not happy. It won’t happen again.”
UPDATE: “A bit of digging by Daily Intel shows that it’s not the first time the prolific Lehrer, who’s contributed to the New York Times Magazine and “Radiolab,” has doubled up,” writes Joe Coscarelli in New York magazine.