Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Ellie Light" - like Salzman on steroids w/UPDATES

Obama has suspicious number of letter-writing fans named 'Ellie Light'
Ellie Light sure gets around.

In recent weeks, Light has published virtually identical “Letters to the Editor” in support of President Barack Obama in more than a dozen newspapers. Every letter claimed a different residence for Light that happened to be in the newspaper’s circulation area.

“It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything,” said a letter from alleged Philadelphian Ellie Light, that was published in the Jan. 19 edition of The Philadelphia Daily News.

A letter from Light in the Jan. 20 edition of the San Francisco Examiner concluded with an identical sentence, but with an address for Light all the way across the country in Daly City, California.

President Barack Obama has both detractors and fans. A curious number of his fans are named Ellie Light.

Variations of Light’s letter ran in Ohio’s Mansfield News Journal on Jan. 13, with Light claiming an address in Mansfield; in New Mexico’s Ruidoso News on Jan. 12, claiming an address in Three Rivers; in South Carolina’s The Sun News on Jan. 18, claiming an address in Myrtle Beach; and in the Daily News Leader of Staunton, Virginia on Jan. 15, claiming an address in Waynesboro. Her publications list includes other papers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania and California, all claiming separate addresses.

Light – who e-mailed an identical missive to this reporter on Jan. 16 without listing a hometown – would not answer e-mailed questions about the address discrepancies in newspapers that ran her letter, or her identity, although she did say she wasn’t a former co-worker of this reporter’s who had a similar name.

“I do not write as a representative of any organization,” she said in an e-mail. “The letter I wrote was motivated by surprise and wonderment at the absence of any media support for our President, who won a record-breaking election by a landslide less than 18 months ago, and now, seems to be abandoned by all, supposedly for the infantile reason that he couldn’t make all of Bush’s errors disappear in one day.”

University of Missouri journalism professor Tom Rosenstiel, co-author of a textbook on journalistic values titled “The Elements of Journalism,” reacted with surprise and wonderment upon learning of Light’s widespread publication under multiple addresses.

He said newspapers might be able to avoid similar situations in the future by requesting street addresses and home telephone numbers from would-be correspondents, and verifying that those addresses and phone numbers exist.

"Just because it is inconvenient for us in the news business to find out who people are doesn’t mean it isn’t important anymore,” Rosenstiel said. “It is not OK for people to have multiple identities. This is something that people in the news business and in the business of printing “letters to the editor” need to be aware of.”

The Plain Dealer asks letter writers for a phone number for verification purposes.

Letters were titled:
Soapbox: Obama told us solutions will take time
Fixing inherited problems
America’s problems will take time to fix
No magic wand to fix everything
Happy talk vs. truth
Obama faces hard choices
President can't fix everything overnight
Obama never promised quick solutions
Obama never said he had a magic wand
President Obama said fixing our problems wouldn't be easy
Solutions take time

And so the meme is spread. Question is - who is behind this?
UPDATE: - Looks like the guys at Hillbuzz have cracked the code!
Question of the Day: Who is Ellie Light?

Ellie Light: Who is She and What Does She Want?
Ellie Light: Obama Astroturfer? Or Very, Very, Very Energetic But Independent Letter Writer? With Houses All Over the Nation?

UPDATE(S): Ellie Jeanne Light
62 publications in 29 states and the District of Columbia, 3 national publications and a Yahoo link.
2 foreign publications.

Claims residence in Long Beach, CA; Waynesboro, VA; Hunstville, AL; Salinas, CA; Daly City, CA; San Felipe, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Grass Valley, CA; Gustine, CA; Willits, CA; Vallejo, CA; San Lyuis Obispo, CA; Myrtle Beach, SC; Greenwich, CT; Bridgeport, CT; Barberville, FL; Gainesville, GA; - - you get the idea, complete list at the link.

The sleuths are uncovering even more.
Still More Astroturfing: Gloria Elle and Jan Chen Write the Same Letter; UPDATED: Two More Pairings Found


  1. It's rather easy for one person acting alone to pull this off. Remember Internet trolls? This is an analog troll.

    He/she probably submitted the letter to many more newspapers, but the other ones attempted to verify the listed phone number.

  2. That's probably it. My own experience has shown the S.F. Chronicle and L.A. Times do indeed call and verify authenticity of the letter writer. I believe it was the Chron that also asked me if my letter had been published in any other newspaper. Apparently a lot of papers don't check.

  3. Thanks Rose - when one links up with "Question of the Day" there is way more to this. Thank you so much.

  4. I guess we can expect alot of Cleary letters to the editor. Return of R. Trent Williams and Dick Wyatt.

  5. An apology from Gannett Wisconsin Media for getting duped by Astroturf Ellie:
    A woman named Ellie Light (if that is her real name) recently duped dozens of newspapers around the country, including some here in Wisconsin, into printing her letter praising President Barack Obama as if she were a local resident.
    The letter appeared in three Gannett Wisconsin Media newspapers, including the Door County Advocate. As a result, it also appeared on the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Web site.
    …People intent on duping us are using more sophisticated methods all of the time. We catch many mass-mailed form letters, but this person managed to get past editors with a simple misstatement of fact.
    Like many newspapers, the Press-Gazette already requires writers to provide a street address and phone number (not for publication) for verification purposes.
    We still believe in the inherent honesty of many letter writers, but this case will find us reviewing the incident to determine whether additional safeguards are necessary.
    We apologize that this letter appeared on our Web site.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Comments are open, but moderated, for the time-being. Good luck.