Student Loan Firm Outed For Passing Off Fake Character As Real Person

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A character meant to appear as an uninterested free agent was really the creation of a student loan organization. Now, the cat is finally out of the bag.

An online news personality who had been quoted by major news outlets in pieces about student loans is nothing but a fictional character created by LendEDU.

Thanks to an investigation by The Chronicle, we now know the truth.

Drew Cloud, a self-professed journalist who also claimed to be an authority on everything student loan-related, had a series of interesting new survey results, new data, and a great deal of quotable information that outlets, such as The Boston Globe, CNBC, and The Washington Post, among others, often used.

In his bio, Cloud said he had founded an “independent, authoritative news outlet" on the subject of student loans, but once The Chronicle investigated to verify the journalist’s existence, LendEDU admitted that the “journalist” was nothing but a farce.

When pressed for comment, LendEDU CEO Nate Matherson said: "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education."

But the fact that the character presented itself as an uninterested party with no affiliations with any lending companies is troubling.

As The Chronicle reported, the link between LendEDU and Cloud’s site hadn’t been openly disclosed. Until now.

Still, Matherson called Cloud’s site, The Student Loan Report, “very much a side project for our organization."

Matherson maintained “it is very common practice for online media companies to own or acquire additional media assets” in a recent email, and that “Student Loan Report LLC is a for-profit organization and is paid by some of the companies featured on our website.”

But in 2016, he described the company relationship to the site slightly differently.

In an email to a potential contributor, he wrote: "We have a new project that you might be able to help us with. We are launching a student loan industry news site called Student Loan Report located at studentloans.net."

The fiasco was duly noted on Twitter, and users mocked the entire ordeal endlessly.

Some even said that news outlets who used Cloud as a source should issue a retraction.

Regardless of what news organizations choose to do after this report, it’s clear that outlets should work harder to verify their sources. After all, news reports on student loan-related data meant to help students or, at least, report faithfully on facts only, should not rely on mysterious parties that come with strings attached.

If there are connections between experts and companies, they should be openly disclosed.

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Brian Snyder

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