Chronicle Maintains News Pipeline With Journatic, Company That Used Fake Bylines

Two weeks ago, This American Life exposed news-provider Journatic's practice of using fake bylines to protect writers from lawsuits and to disguise that some articles were being reported and written by low-wage overseas workers. Journatic sold those articles to major American newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, for the paper's Sunday Real Estate and Open Homes sections.

Soon, the inspections began. The Monday after the radio story aired, the Chron reported that an internal investigation “found that [Journatic subsidiary] BlockShopper contributor Jeremy Schnitker submitted 32 articles under the pen name of Jake Barnes in addition to 105 articles under his own name. Those were the only false names uncovered in the investigation.”

A Poynter study reported that Journatic “used previously undisclosed fake bylines on more than 350 stories published on behalf of the Houston Chronicle,” the Chron's sister paper. And, this week, the Chicago Tribune indefinitely suspended its use of the news-farm after discovering plagiarized and fabricated content by a Journatic contributor.

The Chronicle, though, has not broken up with Journatic, which has vowed to stop using fake bylines. At this point, the paper said in a recent statement, it is “reviewing content in its Sunday Real Estate and Open Homes sections produced by Journatic's Blockshopper to ensure it meets standards. If it does not, appropriate action will be taken.”

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