"Drew Cloud Is a Well-Known Expert on Student Loans. One Problem: He's Not Real."

A remarkable story from The Chronicle of Higher Education (Dan Bauman & Chris Quintana)


From the Chronicle article:

Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post,The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt.

He's always got the new data, featuring irresistible twists:

One in five students use extra money from their student loans to buy digital currencies.

Nearly 8 percent of students would move to North Korea to free themselves of their debt.

Twenty-seven percent would contract the Zika virus to live debt-free.

All of those surveys came from Cloud's website, The Student Loan Report.

… But he's a fiction, the invention of a student-loan refinancing company.

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud's existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published…. Before being scrubbed from the website, he was described as having "a knack for reporting throughout high school and college where he picked up his topics of choice." …

Thanks to "Glenn Reynolds" (InstaPundit). I should add that "Eugene Volokh" is completely real, 100%. I've personally corresponded with him.

NEXT: Tocqueville on national injunctions

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  1. I’ve personally met Eugene Volokh, and I’m not convinced that he’s real. Someone with his history of success and achievement, and he’s also ridiculously nice and kind? And funny too??? I call B.S.

  2. Eugene Volokh says that he has corresponded with Eugene Volokh. This confirms my suspicion that Eugene Volokh is really Bob Dole.

  3. I’ve personally seen a website that had Eugene Volokh’s picture on it. And since everything on the internet is true, Eugene Volokh is definitely real.

  4. Apparently, if the Post, the Globe, or CNBC find a commentator they agree with, they don’t feel it necessary to verify if he’s real or not.

    1. If you troubled yourself to look at the Globe article, at least, before displaying your prejudices, you would see that it is simply an account of the poll results, and does not say anything about agreeing or disagreeing.

      It was foolish of them, IMO, to take the results of an online poll seriously, despite the assurances they got from the polling company, but that’s another matter.

      If you want to criticize the papers for being too quick to print a story that they think is interesting without checking, then OK, but ideology doesn’t enter into it.

    2. Journalists reporting uncorroborated content off the internet as if it were news is becoming fairly common. Several news outlets recently reported about an attempted kidnapping in Denver based on an uncorroborated tweetstorm. Rolling Stone type reporting is more the exception than the rule.

  5. “The truth? They can’t handle the truth!” – Another fiction character

  6. If the facts are real, should we care if the person is real? No.
    If the facts are false, should we care if the person is real? No.

    Ergo, there’s no reason to care about the reality of the person at all.

    I feel about Drew Cloud like I do about Nicolas Bourbaki: if the theorems are true, there’s no particular reason for him to exist. And if they’re false, it’s better that he doesn’t.

    1. Well, theorem proofs can be evaluated just based on their contents. Mathematicians don’t need to know whether to trust the author. But for many assertions, such as “I did this survey and here were the results,” the person’s trustworthiness can be quite important. And claiming a false identity and backstory strikes me as undermining the person’s trustworthiness.

      1. That’s so obvious I am surprised anyone does not understand that.

        My firm once had a patent case, where there was an expert who had claimed to have a degree from a university in the relevant field. It turned out that he was missing 1/2 a credit to graduate. For that lie, the jury hated him and rejected his opinion.

  7. Why “[t]hanks to Glenn Reynolds?”

    The reporting copied by The Volokh Conspiracy (without a link, so far as I can tell) appears to be entirely the work of The Chronicle Of Higher Education.

    Why a link to Instapundit in this context but not to The Chronicle? Just right-wing bloggers sticking together, and demonstrating (perhaps inadvertently) their lack of respect for mainstream journalists and publication standards?

    1. Indeed. I followed the link to Instapundit, and was vexed to discover that it didn’t link to the Chronicle of Higher Education story. Happily, a Google search for “drew cloud” got me a link.

      Less happily, said Google search also linked to a Chicago Tribune story, headlined “Widely quoted student loans expert exposed as fictitious creation of a for-profit company”. The lede of the article hit the same note: “…is a fictitious person manufactured by a for-profit student loan refinancing firm…”

      One wonders: Why this emphasis on the for-profit angle? Would the Tribune have considered it less reprehensible if an imaginary expert had been sold to the public and the press by a nonprofit organization, especially by one whose purposes aligned with the paper’s own philosophy? Suppose, for instance, that the AAUP had fabricated a student-loans expert in order to promote the idea that a larger chunk of taxpayer money needed to be allocated to higher ed. Would the Trib have been so quick to deplore their motivation?

      And this, perhaps, explains why right-wing bloggers might feel a certain lack of respect for mainstream journalists and their publication standards…

      1. Just to be clear, InstaPundit does indeed link to the Chronicle article. (Glenn is big on providing links.) it’s just that in my credit to InstaPundit, I linked to the whole blog, not to the specific post, so that might not have been obvious.

        1. My bad. I don’t regularly read Instapundit and, when I followed the link from here, I didn’t realize that the colored and larger-fonted heading was in fact a link. I was looking for a link to the Chronicle piece within Instapundit’s body text, and, when I didn’t find one, assumed that there was none. My apologies to Reynolds for my unwarranted vexation directed at him, and for expressing said unwarranted vexation here.

      2. “for-profit” provides a motive. Motive is essential aspect for crime movies, so it makes sense to bring it up.

        1. TS: ‘”for-profit” provides a motive’

          That’s fine if you accept the premise that “non-profit” is motiveless. Which is false. NP’s have essentially the same motives as FP’s: staying in business, increasing influence, increasing wealth, rewarding leaders. The more successful ones are massively influential.

          I’m constantly depressed at how few people recognize that. PETA is to The Little Sisters of Perpetual Responsibility, as Exxon is to Joe and Mildred’s Hardware Store.

          1. Non profits should actually be called “non taxed”. That’s the biggest difference between the two.

            Non profits could not exist without for profits.

  8. Whoops — I had tried to include a link to the Chronicle article in the subtitle of the post (“A remarkable story from The Chronicle of Higher Education (Dan Bauman & Chris Quintana)”), but hadn’t realized that the posting software doesn’t allow links in the subtitles. I’ve just added a link, so you can see the full story.

  9. If you use a pseudonym, try to do an obvious fake name like “Publius” or “Friend of Truth” or what have you.

  10. Drew Cloud for President! Just need some CGI.

  11. So, like, think about it man. Like reality, man. If we all believe this Volokh guy is real, do we actually make him real with our minds? Inhale deeply, hold it………………wow man. Reality. Hey, anybody got any chips?

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