Faking it? (2)


In response to my blog post outlining why I don’t believe in the authenticity of the sexily-clad cyclist story, I received a tweet from @StreetsblogNYC saying that although there were “no direct witnesses” there was “compelling corroboration” of events with a link to their blog post A Long Explanation of Why the Biking-While-Sexy Story Is No Hoax;

“George Bliss and Marlo Medrano of Hudson Urban Bicycles, a West Village bike shop, confirmed that Rijcken described an encounter with NYPD when she saw them later the same day. … Bliss’s recap of Rijcken’s account more or less matched what Rijcken told Streetsblog last Friday.”

Is this meant to be the “compelling corroboration” referred to? Well, I’m sorry, but to me that’s just too flimsy.

“Medrano confirmed that she was wearing the skirt shown in the widely-circulated photograph of Rijcken on her bike.”

Errr… hold on now, doesn’t that contradict her story?

“Rijcken told the Daily News that she was ‘on [her] way back to the hotel when [the police stop] happened and I changed into pants.'”

Yup, I definitely spot an anomaly there.

If she went to the meeting first, why didn’t she tell the Daily News she was on her way to a meeting rather than on her way back to her hotel? Or did she get pulled over after the meeting but before getting pulled over (in which case Medrana would have seen her in her skirt but she couldn’t have told him about her supposed encounter with the cop as it hadn’t happened yet)? (While on the subject of conflicting stories, note that in my first blog post on this subject I already pointed out that some sources say it happened on April 30 and others on May 3.)

So far, StreetsBlog’s attempt to dispel the rumours only provides me with even more reasons to believe the sexy cyclist story to be a hoax, and it doesn’t stop there:

“Rijcken touts her expertise in “guerrilla marketing” on her LinkedIn profile

Hm, interesting, I didn’t know that before, but it adds to my belief her story is not genuine.

“[Rijcken] emailed Joanna Virello and Stephanie Musso, her American acquaintances who organized the New Amsterdam Bike Show, asking if the New York Press would be interested in the story. (The Bike Show is co-produced by Manhattan Media, publisher of New York Press and other local NYC outlets.)”

Now that compellingly corroborates a possible hoax, as it directly contradicts a statement Rijcken made on Twitter, claiming she “never went to the press or mentioned a bikename” and “just posted it on [Facebook]” (the Facebook page for VanMoof, that was, with a lovely picture of Rijcken – who also claims she is a former model – posing with a VanMoof bicycle).

Faking It? (2)Streetsblog.org close their blog post stating “the hoax rumors have made her plot even more successful”.  


Hm. Successful in getting herself and the bicycle brand she represents a lot of attention, indeed, but also successful in creating plenty of doubt on her own and her company’s credibility and integrity, as it could be perceived that VanMoof might be willing to lie to people (dissatisfied customers included?) and that Jasmijn Rijcken herself is perhaps not as good at guerilla marketing as she thinks she is (as the whole point about guerrilla marketing is that you don’t make it obvious it’s a marketing stunt!).

All that at the expense of the NYPD; no matter how much you do so on the back of other bad press, that’s just inexcusable and shows a ruthlessness that would frighten me off if I were a (potential) customer, business partner or even mere acquaintance of Jasmijn Rijcken and/or VanMoof.

On the off chance that Rijcken’s story is genuine and not a hoax, she simply lacked the foundation to publicise it in the way she did. However genuine an accusation, you just can’t take it to the press or even merely post it publicly on your (company’s) social media profile without anything more than just your own word for it. (This is where serious, commercial press/media outlets should hang their heads in shame as well, as many of them relayed the story without sufficiently checking its factuality and credibility.)

I feel sincerely sorry for Jasmijn if she indeed really got harassed by a New York City cop, but I am having a hard time believing a person who on the one hand claims to be a well-travelled world citizen with work experience in the US, Europe and India, and on the other hand tries to present herself as a naïve, almost frightened tourist who could and would feel (easily) intimidated by a man in uniform.

Also, if she did get harassed by the unnamed NYPD cop and then decide to take advantage from it by publicising (marketing?) it in the way that she has done, I hope she understands what damage that may do to how other women (and men!) who suffered harassment may be perceived by the public.

And if she really is as “overwhelmed” as she claims to be right now by what “one Facebook post” (and an email to the press?) could bring about, that, again, may only show she’s not quite the marketing expert and hype heroine she claims to be.

Personally, I am more inclined to believe this was all a deliberate hoax, and I would suggest that Jasmijn Rijcken and VanMoof issue a shared statement or press release in which they come clean about this marketing stunt and announce they will do something that might help them save face as well as make up for the bad press they gave the NYPD. Perhaps they could make a donation to the NYC Police Foundation, the NYPD Emerald Society or one of the other charitable organisations supported by the NYPD. And perhaps those media outlets stupid enough to fall for the hoax could make donations as well.

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Faking it?

A small part of this post was previously submitted as a comment to an article on Jezebel.com

Last month featured (less than) fifteen minutes of fame for Botox Mom. So far this month, we’ve had the Gay Girl in Damascus that turned out to be a married heterosexual man in Edinburgh. Then it turned out that the lesbian news site editor (s)he had been flirting with online wasn’t a lesbian female either, but in fact a straight, married construction worker in Ohio. Next up, I suspect, may be the revelation that Barbie buying her seven-year-old daughter a boob job voucher was nothing but a publicity stunt by human Barbie Sarah Burge to promote her plastic surgery company.

Great! If I wasn’t already critical enough towards everything that pops up in my news feed, now I find myself taking a rather cynical approach to all of it, as well. And that’s not a good time to see tweets linking to news stories of a woman claiming to have been stopped by police for cycling in a short skirt.

Faking It (Source)I’m not having this. Seriously, you can NOT expect me to believe this to be true. In fact, I’m pretty confident in thinking this was either a throw-away comment on Facebook that got out of hand, or a deliberate hoax conceived in a bad attempt at (guerilla) marketing. From the NY Daily News article:

“NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said: ‘Whether this story bears even a modest semblance of what actually occurred is impossible to establish without being provided the purported officer’s name and getting his side of the story.'”

There are no witnesses either, there’s just her story, and a picture of her posing, smiling, on a shiny brand new designer bicycle that isn’t commonly on sale in New York; did she bring it with her on her short visit to the city? Oh wait, there’s another clue in the Daily News article:

“As general manager of a Dutch bicycle company, [Jasmijn] Rijcken was in New York to attend the New Amsterdam Bike Show and hopped on her wheels that sunny day to experience biking in New York City first hand.”

Sure. And she thought it would make for some nice (free?) publicity to pose for a picture, post that picture to her company’s Facebook page with a story wicked enough to appeal to tabloid editors’ imagination? And I am supposed to believe this actually happened?! Well I’m sorry, but I don’t. But hey, it makes for a good story and there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? And while Jasmijn Rijcken has no proof for her version of events, I have no way of proving it never happened, either; I can, however, offer plenty of reasons to be sceptical in respect of the authenticity of the story.

As a blogger I have the privilege to self-righteously spout my views – and I don’t claim to do anything else here but exactly that, albeit with due care and attention. However, I expect serious press outlets like the ones linked in this post to do a bit more than that; to do some fact-checking, ask difficult questions, assess something’s actual news value, you know, those things that in my opinion may be expected from paid, professional journalists (as opposed to amateur bloggers). (And no, the word allegedly should not be put about ubiquitously as some Get Out Of Jail Free card.)

This sexily clad cyclist story hit various serious (albeit, in some cases, tabloid-type) news outlets in recent days, and we’re in June. The lady’s Facebook update reporting of this story with the accompanying picture is dated May 23, 2011; that’s nearly three weeks ago already, so this isn’t exactly current, is it? In fact, the story probably wasn’t even current at the time of said Facebook update, as this year’s New Amsterdam Bicycle Show in New York took place on April 30, and the incident with the police officer is said to have taken place around this date (some articles state it happened on April 30, others say it was May 3). This makes this week’s reporting on alleged events rather outdated and harder to check for factuality. Aside from that, the weather in New York around April 30 may not even have been particularly suitable for a bike ride in a short skirt with temperatures in the area apparently no higher than 67°F/19°C (average weather conditions around that time of year would certainly not entice me to pack a short skirt for a trip to NYC).

Furthermore, if Miss Rijcken felt indeed as offended and discriminated against as she claims to have felt, it makes no sense to me that she waited three-or-so weeks to make that Facebook post expressing how upset she supposedly was. Also, why didn’t she obtain proof (such as the police officer’s name and/or badge number) and seek people to corroborate her story (particularly considering her claim that she’s not the only one this has happened to)?

What I am trying to make clear is this: Serious, commercial news outlets currently face a lot of competition from bloggers. If they want to stay ahead of bloggers, perhaps they should distinguish themselves through quality and reliability, rather than resort to publishing opinion pieces and outdated (non-)stories or lower their level to badly checked (or perhaps even unchecked) expressions of (mis)information. Moreover, they have a duty of care towards their (paying) readership, as well as to society as a whole; people unfamiliar with the press and media industry, may be insufficiently aware of how press coverage may affect their own integrity, that of their business and that of other people or organisations involved (in this particular case the NYPD).

Secondly, I want people to realise the possible consequences of posting what they might think is an innocuous accusation on their social media profile; you never know who may pick up on your story and take it beyond your control.

Overall, I just want professional (i.e. paid) journalists and editors to stop treating their (potential) audiences as idiots and do the decent job of offering value for money by engaging in proper journalism. I am sick and tired of whiny mantras of how the internet is killing newspapers when perhaps a lot of the decline of the newspaper industry could be blamed on bad journalism.

In the meantime, I hope that non-journos reading this blog post will understand the importance of maintaining a critical approach to everything they read in the papers.


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