Champaign, Ill. (ECWd) –
Over the past several months, we have been reviewing a Facebook page entitled “The Boathouse Johnny’s Gone Fishing” because we believed it to be a “fake” page passing on false information as “news” and pretending to be associated with the University of Illinois College of Media Institute of Media Research.
Indeed, the Contact and Basic Info section of the Boathouse Johnny’s Gone Fishing page points to the Institute of Media Research website, leading people to believe that is who they are, or at least associated with.
Most of what they posted appeared legitimate, but a few pieces appeared fake, AI, or unskillfully researched – quite unlike what we would expect a “news media” Facebook page touting to be with the Insitute of Media Research to publish.
Some of the “unresearched” pieces we spotted dealt with the (lack of) ability of the public to review grand jury subpoenas – something we do as a matter of routine when working on articles involving subpoenas.
The most recent posting which caught our attention appeared as a clear violation of the First Amendment right to publish photos, videos, and activities of police and crime scenes. Our intent was to write about the Director of the Illinois State Police once we verified the message – now we come to his defense.
It was the Boathouse’s publication of an official-looking message allegedly from the Director of the Illinois State Police, admonishing the public and news media for publishing photos of state troopers and crime scenes. It even carried a veiled threat of being charged with obstruction of justice and interfering with an investigation for publishing the photos.
We asked the Illinois State Police, they denied the Director or anyone else within the state police ever sent any email or other message, attributed to them on that Boathouse’s Facebook post.
We asked the University of Illinois College of Media about the Boathouse page – they responded by denying it was legitimate by stating they reported the page to Facebook for pretending to be a business (part of the Institute of Media Research), reported it for being a fake page, and reported it for passing false information.
When I confronted the message with a comment, the Boathouse responded by telling me how wrong I was, then blocking me from their Facebook page.
They have claimed to be able to sherardize court cases, research on Lexis-Nexis, claims to have an attorney and team of law school students working with them, and also claim to be working from the University.
Some of the language we see them use, claims they make, and name or position dropping, is reminiscent of a person we know all too well but will not mention without further proof.
We have attempted through several avenues to ask the Boathouse to respond to several questions, but since we are blocked, we cannot even send them the message asking for comment.
One final word – real news/media pages are upfront with their readers, publish who they are (by name), and publish their contact information.