Publisher admits it used articles by bogus reporters

The Polish company behind CompareCamp and FinancesOnline today admitted that the writers listed as contributors to the websites are fictitious.

The bogus authors were listed on the sites' authors page before being taken down following reports last week by CBS MoneyWatch and media blogger Jim Romenesko. CompareCamp, which produces business-themed infographics and other content, and its sister site claimed in its staff's online biographies that they had worked at a range of well-known media publications, including The Washington Post, Charlotte Observer, Philadelphia Inquirer and Bloomberg News.

Ruby Media Corp., the company behind CompareCamp and FinancesOnline, blamed its listed contributors for the deceptions. Ruby Media said in an awkwardly worded statement on Monday that it had found the writers through the site ProBlogger, a forum for bloggers.

Ruby Media spokesman Radek Szlyk told Romenesko that it received one offer for a job listing it posted on ProBlogger offering a team of writers with "really good" credentials "Sadly, we were deceived and they turned out to be frauds," he told the site. "Our biggest mistake was that we didn't verify their credentials thoroughly enough."

"[C]ooperation with all such journalists has been terminated, and the company announced that a more thorough screening procedure for hiring future content providers is already being implemented," Ruby Media said. "Additionally, the company contacted LinkedIn and requested for removal of all inaccurate data from the journalists' profiles."

Ruby Media also apologized to the affected news organizations and to people whose stolen photos were included in the phony biographies.

A company spokesperson didn't respond to a email requesting comment. Calls to what the sites' list as their U.S. offices also were not returned. ProBlogger, which is based in Australia, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

As CBS MoneyWatch reported last week, Ruby Media's content appeared in a number of prominent publications, including BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Wired. Buzzfeed notes that it never promoted the posts that appeared under the name "Alex Hillsberg," one of the supposed CompareCamp and FinanceOnline writers revealed to be a fake.

"Anyone can post to BuzzFeed's community, but as noted on every community post this user was not vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed's editorial staff," according to an email from a Buzzfeed spokeswoman. "The account violates our 'rules of conduct' section in our community [terms of service], so we have removed it. "

The Huffington Post also scrubbed a Hillsberg post and replaced it with an editor's note saying "This HuffPost blogger profile contained false biographical information and has been removed from the site."

Many questions have yet to be answered, including why Ruby Media failed to do a basic background check for its writers. The legitimacy of the company, which lists several U.S. Fortune 500 companies as clients, including Citigroup (C), Best Buy (BBY) and Avon (AVP), has also been called into question. Ruby Media Group, a New York public relations firm, clams the similarly named Polish company stole its identity.

"Honestly, I really don't feel that any responsibility is being taken here," said Ruby Media Group owner Kristen Ruby, noting that her allegations haven't been addressed, in an interview.

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