A PIECE published by Tom Eaton, The Huffington Ghost: A New Low For SA Media has exposed fake journalism at the post. Eaton’s article details the use of clickbaiting, a ruse to attract readers and the exposé of a non-existent journalist named Shelley Garland, supposedly an “MA Philosophy Student at the University of Johannesburg”, by local journalist Laura Twiggs.
See our previous posting about Huffington’s double standards when it comes to apartheid history, and the failure of their business partner, Naspers to come clean about the affair.
Meanwhile it appears that parent company Media24 is investigating itself after the incident. Huffington Post’s editor Verashni Pillay has admitted that the blogger, Shelley Garland, “cannot be traced and appears not to exist”. In all likelihood the piece was commissioned by the company to generate online traffic and/or to dispel criticism emanating from earlier exposés of the company — a case of a public relations department getting ahead of facts on the ground?
In September 2016, Medialternatives received in excess of 8000 clicks on an article about Naspers’ apartheid history, and continues to receive 500 views per day.
The Daily Maverick’s Ivo Vegter relates: “Late on Saturday afternoon, after nearly three days of basking in the glory of clickbait page views, and more than a day after being made aware of the problem with the author’s identity, the offensive post was finally taken down. So was Friday’s full-throated defence. The original post and defence can now only be accessed via internet archive sites.”
The entire incident may be the result of an elaborate troll:
Politicsweb states that on Sunday the real author of the article reached out to Roman Cabanac and Jonathan Witt of the libertarian online radio programme, the Renegade Report, explaining how he had pulled off the hoax.” …. As early as Friday, Ramon Cabanac of the Renegade Report, a podcast in the CliffCentral stable, confided in me that ‘Shelley [Garland] is a figment of my very white friend’s imagination. … We are trolling Huffy Post by writing outrageous articles. We’ll expose them soon.'”
It appears South African media has entered the era of the troll and counter-troll, expect more fake news from Media24.
UPDATE: Timeslive is carrying a story about the man behind Shelley Garland, while Huffpost appears to be running with the news about its own failings. Pathetic if you ask me.