The so-called "New Media" suffered another black eye this week. ESPN finds itself the target of ridicule after admitting that a woman it featured as a blogger on its ESPN.com website may not actually exist.
"Sarah Phillips" wrote a column for the ESPN Playbook page that described her experiences in sports betting and that offered gambling tips. "She" came to ESPN from a dedicated gambling website Covers.com--where she was first just a poster on their chat boards--and then was hired to write a regular column.
The whole thing came apart last week after posts on the ESPN site began to question if the attractive, 20-something woman portraying herself as "Sarah Phillips" was actually real--or if the column was being ghost-written (likely by a homely, degenerate man in his mid-50's with no hair and a few teeth missing). As the clamor grew for "Sarah Phillips" to reveal herself, ESPN had to admit that they had never actually met face-to-face with their writer--and that they could not confirm she was who she said she was.
It turns out, that Covers.com never actually met "Sarah Phillips" before they hired her to blog for them either. So amazingly, someone whom no one has ever seen goes from nobody to a contributor to a website run by the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader In Sports" in a few short years--collecting paycheck after paycheck along the way--without a single background or resume check. Welcome to what passes for "Journalism" in the internet age.
You might find it ironic that I choose to attack another blogger in a blog--but I put this very same content out there every morning on WOSH Radio at 6:30 am. And the people that are criticized or praised in this column I see face-to-face and talk to on the phone about the very issues I discuss. No nom-de-plumes here, no anonymous reports. Things we should still consider when looking for sources of news and information--even in this "New Media Era".