The Lookout

‘Media manipulator’ admits he lied as a source for the Times, ABC, CBS

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Lookout

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Holiday's book (Portfolio/Penguin)

A self-described "media manipulator" who served as an "expert" source for a slew of news outlets admitted he made it all up to prove that the media "will literally print anything." He also did it to promote a book.

Ryan Holiday, a 25-year-old marketing director for American Apparel, revealed his "experiment" in an interview with Forbes.com, where he's a contributor.

"I knew that bloggers would print anything," Holiday said. "So I thought, what if, as an experiment, I tried to prove that they will literally print anything?"

Holiday, who lives in New Orleans, said he enlisted in "Help A Reporter Out," a free service that connects journalists with more than 130,000 "experts" on a variety of topics.

ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times and Reuters were among those news outlets that found Holiday through the site.

An April 18 story published in the Times—"Enjoying Turntables Without Obsessing"—quoted Holiday's thoughts on vinyl records: "I could hear hands going up and down the frets, and stuff that they probably didn't want you to hear. Which is a nice little surprise."

Holiday told Forbes he doesn't own a turntable.

The Times quickly appended this correction:

Editors' Note: July 18, 2012

An earlier version of this article included quotations from Ryan Holiday of New Orleans discussing why he preferred vinyl records. The reporter reached Mr. Holiday through a Web site that connects reporters to sources on various topics.

Mr. Holiday, who has written a book about media manipulation, subsequently acknowledged that he lied to the Times reporter and to other journalists on a variety of subjects, fabricating responses to their online queries. (He says he does not own a turntable.)

"I wanted to prove that Help A Reporter Out embodies so much that is wrong with online journalism," Holiday wrote in an email to Romenesko.com. "Reverse engineering stories from search times, not fact checking, not caring about self promotion, etc."

Holiday's interview with Forbes appears to be part of a publicity stunt itself: His book, "Trust Me I'm Lying," was published on Thursday.

"Let's be clear," Peter Shankman, the founder of HARO, wrote in a blog post. "This idiot did this for one reason, and it wasn't anywhere NEAR as altruistic as "an experiment." He wrote a book on how to lie and get in the media, and he was promoting it. End of story. Want more proof? You know what this guy did before he wrote this book? HE WORKED FOR TUCKER MAX. Enough said."

"As a journalist, it's always been your job to do your research and check the source, whether you find that source on the street, on Craigslist or on HARO," Shankman told Forbes. "If you're not doing that, you're not doing your job."

On Thursday, Forbes published a new post by Holiday entitled "Your Favorite Bloggers are Literally Crazy (And That's Why They're Popular)." It's been taken down.

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