The Examiner’s Web site pays writers based on how many hits their stories get. So a Southern California free-lance writer says she wrote a “series of preposterous articles” to see how much money she could get. The writer, L.J. Williamson, boasted about her accomplishment in an e-mail to LAfishbowl:
- [A]ll they care about is how many hits your page gets, and they don’t care about the writing. Fine — I decided to try to do things their way.
Unexpectedly, one post I wrote about the vaccine/autism debate really brought the crazies out of the woodwork, and brought my page views to a new record high. So I went with it, decided to start baiting the vaccine deniers more and more, with exaggerations and half-truths.
I also wrote a series of preposterous articles on topics like why peanuts should be banned, why panic was a totally appropriate response to the swine flu outbreak, and why schoolchildren were likely to die if they were allowed to play dangerous games such as tag.
And no one at Examiner noticed or cared what I said or did for quite some time.
Williamson’s fun ended when lawyers for Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey complained she was spreading rumors about their clients having Ibogaine parties.
Travis Henry, Examiner.com’s director of editorial, responded on LAfishbowl by saying, “It is true that we put a lot of trust in our Examiners. It is unfortunate if an Examiner uses this freedom to abuse the system.”
(The SF Weekly, in reporting this story, commented on Henry’s quote by observing, “You know, when the Unabomber was identified as a former UC-Berkeley lecturer, the school’s chancellor did not say ‘We have a great number of math professors — and very few of them sent explosives through the mail.'”)
Henry’s response did not indicate the Examiner was going to change its policy in any way. Instead, he turned his response into a pitch for more writers.