From 2012 to 2014, two writers named Angela Cheng and Sabrina O'Connor were covering the Lady Gaga beat on the user-generated news site Examiner.com. The two writers specialized in attacking the famous pop star in articles that bordered on outrageous and sensational, criticizing performances and citing dismal ticket sales or false information entirely.
But beyond just the bullying editorials, many on the Internet wondered who in the world these two Examiner writers were, as most sane people do when someone on the Internet seems totally fake. Cheng's profile picture was revealed to be pulled from a Flickr account and commenters on ONTD speculated Cheng and O'Connor were the same person. One of the people who wanted to know the story behind Cheng was Bill Werde, former Editorial Director at Billboard.com.
In January, Cheng wrote a post saying that Werde was to be fired from Billboard, but a statement issued to Buzzfeed Monday from Guggenheim Media Entertainment Group says that was false. In a tumblr post written Monday, Werde writes that he was aware of both Cheng and O'Connor because they would sometimes use him in their stories "with ungrounded and wholly untrue accusations that somehow Billboard or [Werde] was receiving favor from Gaga's camp to better represent her or her chart positions."
When Werde noticed other music outlets like Business Insider and New York Magazine repeating details from O'Connor and Cheng's stories specifically, such as Gaga spending $25 million on an Artpop album promotion campaign, he reached out to the Examiner to cite libel and defamation. And just like that, the posts by these authors were gone. With a quick call to the colleges Cheng and O'Connor cited in their bios to have previously attended, Werde found out they were never students there.
Now there is a new (probably totally fake) Examiner critic named Amira Hassan who appears to be writing harsh takedowns of Lady Gaga similar to Cheng and O'Connor. Cheng started a new site titled "Pop Music Gadfly," which was once filled with celebrity and pop music-related gossip but has now been removed as of late Monday night.
But the big question that arises from this story is not who are these mysterious, Lady Gaga haters. After all, the Internet is brimming with trolls and like Werde says, "high-profile bloggers with an axe to grind against Lady Gaga." The question here is how did so many major outlets get duped by these two ridiculous writers?
From Werde's post:
All of this leads back to the second dynamic in this whole scenario that remains eating at me: the ease at which the lie accomplishes the truth. No one I've spoken with in or around Gaga's camp or in the music business as a whole—and I have a decent source or two, trust—believes there was a $25 million dollar marketing budget on Gaga's Artpop campaign. And yet suddenly, there it is, like wildfire, spreading in too many pop-culture outlets to be ignored. What can Gaga do? Ignore it and let people believe? Deny it and legitimize the claims of a person who may or may not exist? It's a shit choice.
A shit choice indeed.