In the past few days, The Daily Beast has published a number of scoops gleaned from the leaked Sony Pictures documents obtained by a hacker group called the Guardians of Peace. Unlike every other outlet covering the leak, however, the Beast is posting all of their articles about it under a fake byline.

The byline, “William Boot,” is a reference to a character in the 1938 Evelyn Waugh novel Scoop (in which Boot writes for a newspaper called The Beast—get it?). It’s usually used for slideshows or best-of lists, where a traditional author byline would be unnecessary. Using the pseudonym for stories based on the Sony leak is highly unusual: These stories are obviously controversial, and often require labor-intensive reporting. Why would an outlet want to keep their readers in the dark about who’s writing these articles? And why would the author of a big story not want the credit for it?

After noting the byline on Twitter, Time reporter and former Deadspin writer Jack Dickey suggested the method was less to hedge against potential litigation and more to preserve a particular staff member’s future access to Sony Pictures:

In its morning media-industry newsletter, Capital New York suggests that the staff member in question is entertainment reporter Marlow Stern:

“Boot” may in real life be a freelancer, but if it’s a pseudonym for a Daily Beast writer who wants to avoid offending Sony by reporting publicly on the hack, the most likely candidate is media and entertainment reporter Marlow Stern. Yesterday, BuzzFeed media reporter Matt Zeitlin jokingly tweeted that “Boot” was stealing Stern’s beat—the obvious implication being that Stern was behind the posts attributed to Boot.

Stern, who did not acknowledge Capital’s emails, replied to Zeitlin’s tweet with an emoticon:

So it remains a mystery. (The Daily Beast’s executive editor, Noah Shachtman, did not return multiple emails from Gawker seeking clarification about the practice.) If you know who’s writing these articles, though, definitely let us know. Anonymity guaranteed.

Update (12/17/14): Multiple sources with knowledge of The Daily Beast’s operations tell Gawker that William Boot is indeed Marlow Stern. If you know anything more, get in touch.

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