The Chicago Sun-Times on Friday announced film critic Richard Roeper will return to work — with a new Twitter account — after an internal investigation confirmed a report that he boosted his Twitter following by purchasing fake followers.
Roeper will resume writing film and television reviews, but the paper pulled the plug on a recently announced general interest column, according to a joint statement from the critic and the Sun-Times.
His work was sidelined this week after a Jan. 27 New York Times report revealed he had used the website Devumi to buy thousands of Twitter followers. In the statement, Roeper said the report was accurate.
“On a number of occasions, in an effort to build my brand, I bought Twitter followers,” Roeper said. “I did this on my own, without the knowledge of the Chicago Sun-Times or any other media organization for which I have worked.”
In six purchases between 2014 and 2016, Roeper spent about $650 of his own money to obtain roughly 50,000 followers. That was according to receipts he had kept to date, but “he did not rule out other potential purchases,” according to Sun-Times management.
Roeper, who has been with the paper since 1982, said he was unaware the purchased accounts were fake, or that others’ identities had been compromised. He was described in the statement as “genuinely contrite.”
The decision to pull Roeper’s work drew a range of reactions from across the news and social media spheres.
“We took these steps because, in addition to our expectation of professional accuracy, authenticity is particularly important to the profession of journalism,” Sun-Times management said.
“The Sun-Times will implement a policy to clarify what we thought was obvious — that journalists should not pay to acquire followers on social media.”
Roeper is now tweeting @RichardERoeper.