Fake News Stems from the Intersection of Media and Marketing Here are the exact blurred lines I see as a freelance writer...

If you don’t already know me, my name is Brian Penny. I spent my 20s working in Corporate America until January 5, 2011. That’s when I quit my job working as an Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America, where I helped transition force-placed insurance through the Countrywide acquisition. Prior to that, I worked at post-Worldcom MCI, Circuit City, Blockbuster, and several other failed businesses.

On March 13, 2011, I became a whistleblower by leaking BofA emails proving rampant fraud in the industry. Desperate to stay alive, I initially started this blog to let people know I was alive after typing “whistleblower” into Chrome to have it autocomplete the sentence “whistleblower found dead…”

We’re now 9 years down that road, and my life has not been easy. I’m published in Forbes and High Times, but it’s for going to jail. At a certain point, I got tired of pitching articles talking about my old job. Sure, Wells Fargo got hit with a historic fine last year related to my force-placed insurance work back in 2011-2013, but the negative energy was too much to deal with.

I’m now approaching the end of my 30s and seeing the fruition of my vision from back in 2011 when I walked away from Bank of America. It’s funny to me how my naive idea of hiding in public turned out to be the knife people continue stabbing me in the back with to this day. It all revolves around my infamous Cracked article and beef with HuffPost and Buzzfeed.

But before I get into the details, I’m going to paint a quick picture of the reality of working as an independent contractor (called “freelancers”) as a blogger.

Cracked Scripps

The Trenches of Online Writing

Entertainment and news media like to say they’re different, but there are a lot more similarities than people really want to admit. Cracked’s editors, for example, were very quick to villainize me for writing that article by framing it with a fake headline I consistently rejected because it uses the word “fake reviews.”

Sure, Cracked is a humor site, but it’s also part of the Scripps Network, and even Buzzfeed’s legal department seems to have trouble sorting entertainment from reality, as evidenced by the cease and desist they sent my way:

Buzzfeed Cease and Desist

Among the false allegations hurled by Buzzfeed, this misguided gentleman seems to believe that both Buzzfeed and Cracked are legitimate news sources. Cracked clearly identifies itself to Google and everyone else as humor. And we all know Buzzfeed is just some bullshit meme site for little girls.

Cracked Humor Google

But what exactly is it that I’m doing wrong?

Katie Wagner, some PR hack who wrote a “scathing” article about it in PR Daily, has an idea. This PR rep and her PR company seem to think they are going to, and I wish I were kidding here…”preserve an independent press”

Here’s a screenshot of the dumb bitch saying it…

PR Daily Fake News

If you work in journalism, you already know why it’s funny that some ditzy, gossipy, trashy PR bitch is trying to hold the torch of “independent journalism” by trashing my work in some rag that’s only read by other gossipy marketing bitches. While I was busy writing mortgage regulations and lobbying for free and going to jail, these dumb gossipy bitches were gossiping about shiny lipsticks and Brad Pitt.

What exactly do you think this woman means by “preserve an independent press” – by killing herself to end the stupidity?

I have my donation reward for donating to the Pursuance Project. Does she even know what that is or who Barrett Brown is? Has she ever contributed to Wikileaks or The Intercept? Is she helping Chelsea Manning out of prison or Ed Snowden out of exile? Can this dumb PR bitch name one single independent news outlet she’s ever contributed financially to or volunteered to?

Because Barrett Brown seems to think (and, I gotta say I agree with him here) that marketers and PR people are the problem in this equation. This bitch has absolutely no leg to stand on to judge me as a blogger for trying to monetize my platform. It is literally what she does for a living. She is mad at me for doing what she does for a living. Except that I publish facts while she publishes fake news bullshit.

And this is because she, like Mr. Brown and Wikipedia, thinks that begging for money is much more respectable than simply earning it doing exactly what you’re already doing. Barrett Brown and Katie Wagner are at exact opposite ends of the spectrum I’m in the middle of, and the only one that doesn’t recognize it and thinks she’s being charitable is the dumb PR bitch mansplaining to a real journalist how journalism works even though she’s never in her life ever been anything even remotely close to a journalist. She’s the exact opposite of a journalist. So why is the marketing cunt complaining, not the journalist nor the whistleblower?

Barrett Brown Twitter

But because the dumb marketing bitch Katie Wagner seems to share the same misconception as our hero Barrett Brown, I need to clarify this immediately. It’s time for me to blow the whistle and show you that you don’t have to starve to be a real journalist.

Cracked’s “Cracked Store” sponsored posts aside, let’s look at some examples of how real media companies are monetizing these days.

The Tribune Publishing Amazon Scam

I got a great message yesterday on LinkedIn. It was from Mary Balabanian, a Senior Director of Business Development at Tribune Publishing. After toiling away in the trenches for nearly a decade, I was excited when offered syndication for my blog content.

Mary Balabanian Tribune Publishing

If you’re not aware, Tribune Publishing Company is the third-largest newspaper publisher behind Gannett and The McClatchy Company. It owns, among others:

Chicago Tribune
New York Daily News
The Baltimore Sun
Orlando Sentinel
Hartford Courant

This is a major newspaper publisher, so clearly they will have the ethics to know what real syndication is, right? Because I’m clearly missing something about it, so I called Mary and we spoke on the phone this morning. Would you like to hear the details of my special syndication deal that I turned down with Tribune Publishing?

Mary explained that it’s not going to be on any of the Tribune’s news outlets. In reality, the company made a deal with Amazon to improve its on-site SEO and review system by implementing reviews from a review site Tribune owns. She then went on to explain that she wants me to publish on Amazon’s platform and include Amazon links and product mentions throughout.

Because she would be doing (this was my favorite part) “all the work” of publishing my content on Amazon’s platform so that Amazon can embed links, she wanted 50 percent of the profits for any affiliate revenue I get for my content being used on Amazon.

It’s amazing, right?

Instead of an “unpaid, revenue-sharing, affiliate program,” which, by the way, I’m already enrolled in Amazon Associates…but instead of that, she called this “a new kind of syndication. Not traditional syndication.”

SOOOOOoooo…here’s where confusion comes into play, because we now have a major news publisher, a hack PR bitch, a legendary journalist, and a crazy whistleblower all looking at the same thing different ways.

Money Is the Root of Fake News

How is this disconnect happening? Why are Barrett Brown and Wikipedia begging for money while Tribune is simply making backend deals with Amazon (who, by the way, owns the competing Washington Post)? Why was I the victim of a bait-and-switch where I’m offered syndication with Tribune but referred to Amazon? Why doesn’t Amazon use Washington Post for that? That’s way worse false advertising than what Katie Wagner (whom, by the way, did not contact me like a real journalist before publishing her vexatious and libelous hit piece on me) accuses me of in her viscous, false article that is causing me real financial and reputational damage.

Why is some dumb PR bitch telling people I’m not a real journalist just because I have to play the part of both Barrett Brown and Tribune Publishing. Why was Tribune Publishing (like Buzzfeed, HuffPost, and this PR bitch, even the legend Barrett) intent that “real” journalists must give away their content for free?

If the PR bitch truly wanted to “preserve an independent press,” why is she sending those Kinin vape pens to a YouTube unboxing influencer instead of actually supporting Barrett Brown?

I understand that journalistic ethics say journalists shouldn’t take money, but Barrett Brown and I do not have a Mary Balabanian, Senior Director of Business Development at Tribune Publishing. It’s a part that he chooses not to play at all, and I’m being demonized by the PR bitch, HuffPost, Buzzfeed, and all the other bullshit content mills for not wanting to be their slave.

I’m a grown man, and I deserve to be paid for my work. That I found the same exact way to do it that every other publisher is doing does not take away from my journalism. Why does nobody understand this?

That a whistleblower, journalist, publisher, PR rep, and humor site all struggle to explain this relationship is the EXACT REASON THERE IS FAKE NEWS.

I’ve seen activists, journalists, marketers, politicians, etc. all swap spit and change sides. We all grow and mature. But me monetizing my blog and being a capitalist does not take away from my work as a whistleblower and journalist. And fuck any bullshit PR cunt who thinks different. You’re the problem, PR bitch…PR IS FAKE NEWS. MARKETING IS FAKE NEWS. YOU ARE FAKE NEWS, PR BITCH.

And Tribune Publishing, HuffPost, and Buzzfeed…you’re all personally invited to come kiss my ass.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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