It's official: The New York Times got pranked by the girls of "Dating a Banker Anonymous," referred to in a fizzy Times profile last month as a "support group" dedicated to women whose "monthly Bergdorf's allowance has been halved."
Linda Holmes, blogging at National Public Radio, was dubious from the start: "Isn't it totally obvious that this is a put-on?" She dismissed the idea of a "support group" and figured the people behind the blog were angling for a book deal. The Times responded to Holmes, defending the piece and snottily concluding:
I'm not sure what is thought might be fake about this. Ravi did talk to some of the men to verify the relationships and get their side.
But Holmes's skepticism has been vindicated, based on the "Editor's Note" in Wednesday's Times admitting the January 28 article by freelance reporter Ravi Somaiya was overblown:
An article on Jan. 28 about women who commiserated over dating Wall Street bankers caught in the financial crisis described a group they had formed, Dating a Banker Anonymous, as a support group. That is the name of their blog. Its creators originally told The Times that about 30 women had participated, but since publication, they have said that all involved were friends. Laney Crowell, one of the women who started the blog, said in the article that it was "very tongue in cheek;" she has since described it as a satire that embellishes true experiences for effect. Had the nature of the blog been made clear at the outset, the article would have described it accordingly, not as a support group.
More likely, the article would not have been written. Even more explicit was the explanation Newsweek's Tony Dokopuil got from site cofounder Laney Crowell, who
...says that what the Times described as a "support group" of about 30 women is actually a full-blown parody -- and it's at least partly fictionalized. There is no real support community, no regular meetings and the blog is written by Crowell and her lawyer sidekick Megan Petrus, who concoct entries out of a mixture of their own experiences, stories of people who email the site, and anecdotes of girls they meet socially. They don't fact check the emails, or the gossip, and the posts are embellished and exaggerated for added laughs. At times, details are plucked from thin air to give the stories a satirical edge.
And the New York Times fell for it all.