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‘Scandal’ scandal: Popular fan blogger exposed as ABC employee
In times like these, who can fandoms really trust?
In an age when much of a TV series’ success is driven by social media mentions, it’s worth asking who’s behind the most popular recaps, blogs, and tweets about it.
Hardcore Scandal fans had flocked to Scandal411.com and Twitter account @Scandal411 by the thousands to keep up with the political thriller, which stars Kerry Washington as a PR fixer with her own crisis management firm. It’s become one of the top-ranked series in social media interaction. According to The Wrap, it’s the “seventh most-tweeted show of 2013, with 3.5 million interactions” in the first six months of the year alone.
But there was always something odd about Scandal411. The blog and Twitter account often read like the work of a hobbyist reviewer, with personal details inserted into recaps and explosions of profanity when readers disagreed on some point or the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences failed to award Washington an Emmy for Best Actress. Despite this amateur gloss, Scandal411 remained a reliable source for breaking news on the show—to the point where its author seemed to be one step ahead of the network in its promotional content.
Now the fandom has the full story, and it’s a strange one: Multiple sources have confirmed that Scandal411, since deleted from WordPress and Twitter (after a brief stint under the handle @GrantForPrez, an allusion to a series regular), was the work of Courtney Pajor, a New York-based director of special sales for ABC. Her followers were understandably dismayed at the revelation that someone creating buzz for the show was employed by the company that produced it:
— TAL Confidential (@TALConfidential) October 24, 2013
Just found out about #Scandal411 & don’t know how to feel but confused. Call me gullible.
— Mardriss (@ScandalN2Deep) October 24, 2013
About this Scandal 411 controversy, it’s simple as conflict of interest.
— Jillian Matherson (@Jillian002) October 24, 2013
ABC itself appeared unaware of the situation until the story broke, stating: “We take these allegations very seriously. We are investigating the situation and will handle accordingly.” By all indications, then, Pajor was a genuine fan, willing to get down in the trenches—not some fandom mole trying to gin up positive press. If she’d been upfront about her identity, there’s every reason to believe she’d still be a respected Scandal blogger today.
As things stand now, however, her work can’t help but look like cloak-and-dagger viral marketing. Oh well. There’s always Modern Family, right?
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'