Numerous news outlets including the Boston Globe, Fox Business, CNBC, and the Washington Post quoted a supposed student loan expert Drew Cloud, who writes for the site The Student Loan Report. But, the Chronicle of Higher Education found that Cloud isn’t real. “Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published,” the Chronicle reported.
After the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s investigation, the Student Loan Report posted a statement on its website admitting that it “created a pen name of ‘Drew Cloud,’ and conceived a background that we felt personified a lot of the perseverance we hoped to inspire with The Student Loan Report.” In addition, the site noted it used a friend’s photo to “round out the pen name.”
“We used this character of ‘Drew Cloud’ as the primary author of the site — a shared pen name through which we could share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face while funding their education,” the Student Loan Report statement reads.
iMediaEthics has written to Student Loan Report‘s listed e-mail to ask why the site didn’t just use the real names of the people who actually wrote the articles, if it had ever been confronted on the veracity of “Drew Cloud” before the Chronicle of Higher Education discovered the truth, how many articles were attributed to Cloud, and why the site didn’t use a real identity when responding to media outlets. Student Loan Report responded pointing to its statement and said, “We are offering no further comments at this time.”
In that statement, Student Loan Report acknowledged that it “never disclosed” that it was “a pen name that represented a group of us writing these posts” and would begin using “each author’s real name for every post” including going back to put real author’s names on posts attributed to Cloud. Further, Student Loan Report said it should have disclosed on articles about LendEdu.com that they are owned by the same company.
LendEDU’s business offers “private student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans – among other financial products.” As the Chronicle explained, that lack of disclosure is problematic because:
“When people reached out to Cloud for his expertise on student debt, he often suggested that they refinance their loans. That’s one of the services offered by LendEDU. ”
Washington Post, Boston Globe, etc. add editor’s notes
Below, see a collection of editor’s notes and other responses from news outlets that cited Cloud as real.
The Washington Post added an editor’s note to its story:
Editor’s note: This story originally included information from Student Loan Report and cited Drew Cloud, who was described as its founder. This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Drew Cloud does not exist. Student Loan Report is affiliated with LendEDU, a for-profit student lending company, according to LendEDU chief executive Nate Matherson. Matherson confirmed that Cloud is a fictitious character his company promoted as an expert to speak about student loans. The quotes attributed to Cloud and the information from Student Loan Report have been removed from this article.
CNBC posted an editor’s note on its March 2018 story and noted in a separate story that the story was prompted by an e-mail pitch about a Student Loan Report survey signed by Cloud. CNBC said that it contacted Cloud, who said he could do an e-mail interview.
“(Editor’s note: A spokesman CNBC cited for this article from Student Loan Report, Drew Cloud, is not a real person, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education and confirmed by CNBC. In an article published April 24, the Chronicle reported that Cloud was in fact a fake entity created by the parent company of Student Loan Report, Shop Tutors, which also does business as LendEDU. In an effort to provide transparency, CNBC is preserving the original report published on March 23. Here it is:)”
The Boston Globe published an editor’s note:
“Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included statements from a person associated with the survey who gave a false name. The story quoted Drew Cloud, identified as the founder of The Student Loan Report website, which commissioned and published the survey results. A report this week by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that the owners of the website used the fictitious name in correspondence with numerous news publications. The owners of the website also operate a separate business, LendEDU, a shopping site for loans, and did not disclose the connection between the two firms. Nate Matherson, co-founder of the company that owns LendEDU and Student Loan Report, acknowledged to the Globe that he and his colleagues had used the false name when writing articles and communicating with news organizations. However, Pollfish, the company that performed the survey for Matherson, said it arrived at its results independently, and that the findings were accurate.”
Inside Higher Ed added a note to its April 2018 story that cited Cloud. That note reads:
Note: Subsequent reporting by The Chronicle of Higher Education has determined that Drew Cloud, the purported founder of Student Loan Report, is a pseudonym for authors at Student Loan Report, LLC.)