Ghosts in the machine

Jul 5th, 2012 | By | Category: Ethics

Remember John S. Hamilton? He made a brief appearance in The News only to disappear back into the mystery from which he came. When Mr John S. Hamilton dropped in unannounced, it was assumed by many that the piece was planted under a fake name to promote a certain agenda. The supposed author’s disappearance has added to this belief. But John S. Hamilton was neither the first nor the last mystery man to appear in the media. In Pakistan, there are entire media groups that don’t exist! What is interesting is that this is not a problem that is only in Pakistan.

An article on the website of the Poynter Institute, a journalism training institute in US, reveals that fake bylines have been found on stories at four American media groups.

Fake bylines now have been found on stories at four news organizations, according to the Chicago Tribune, an investor in Journatic and a client. Journatic used fake bylines in stories for the Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, and at Hearst’s Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst’s Connecticut papers found no fake bylines.

The fake bylines were the result of media groups outsourcing reporting to private compnay ‘Journatic’ in order to save money. Once the fake names were discovered, the media groups understood that the cost of doing nothing would be their reputation and announced plans to stop working with the company.

Pakistan media groups should take notice and rid their own newspapers of fake names. The practice of placing articles in newspapers for a certain price is an open secret. Some of this is the result of the poor financial situation of many media groups. Some is due to political or other groups exerting influence. No matter what the excuse, though, the end result is that people lose faith in their media.

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