The phrase "sugar babies" isn't the only thing sweet about a "dating" website called Seeking Arrangement. It also reaps heaps of free publicity via localized media handouts crafted to masquerade as news stories.
An example went up Wednesday morning at CBS Detroit with a click-magnet headline: Detroit Teachers Moonlight As ‘Sugar Babies’ To Offset Wage Cuts.
The 390-word unbylined post, attributed to WWJ, claims:
In the Detroit School District alone, 201 teachers are moonlighting as sugar babies to offset wage cuts and job losses, according to dating website SeekingArrangement.com.
Spot any red flags? WWJ's web producer evidently overlooked these, or didn't care about them in a rush to post free, sexy content:
- Not roughly 200 teachers, but precisely 201?
- Not Detroit Public Schools, but the Detroit School District?
- No quote from anyone except website CEO Brandon Wade, who delivers pitches about the service aimed at fee-paying men. ("The average public school teacher registered on the site is between the ages of 28 and 33.")
The last 7 paragraphs in the 10-paragraph report (82% of its words) are about the company. The opening paragraphs are a bait-and-switch attempt at a timely hook and a semblance of credibility:
It’s back-to-school season and many Detroit teachers are struggling in the wake of budget cuts and overcrowded classrooms. . . .
So, what are some Detroit women doing to offset their struggles in the classroom?
Think about this: DPS teachers identify their employer when registering on the Las Vegas-based site to hook up with men for paid dates, really?
Maybe some do, and maybe some non-teachers or former teachers fib, but precisely 201 of them? Spidey sense is twitching -- and not just ours.
"This sounds like BS to me," a reader comments with a screen name at CBS Detroit's site, where many dozens of skeptical or critical comments fill multiple pages. "The only source they use is the guy that runs this sleazy 'dating' site. Do you actually expect teachers to list their correct occupations when they register? Come on. How about a little fact-checking, since this is supposed to be the website of a CBS affiliate?"
Another comment, also posted anonymously Wednesday afternoon, says in part:
Anyone who reads this story . . . and believes it is a complete moron. . . . What really gripes me about this story is what it says about the reporters and editors at CBS Detroit that push this garbage onto their readers. You are giving this jack*ss free advertising to either rip off and take advantage of gullible men, or to lead young women down a primrose path.
To be clear now: Seeking Arrangement is a legal operation in which men contract to pay for companionship and women agree formally only to provide that -- y'know, like an escort service. It describes itself as "The #1 Site for Mutually Beneficial Relationships® & Mutually Beneficial Arrangements™." What that means is up to consenting adults. Totally.
So it's not the business model that raises eyebrows, necessarily, but rather the traction its releases also gain this year at websites of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Defender, a Fox station in Vegas, and media in Canada, Australia and Ireland.
When the Ohio paper's site shared an apparent release three months ago, an editor inserted "claims" to qualify what's being said and tossed quote marks around a six-letter word that seems like a euphemism:
An Internet "dating" site claims well-heeled "sugar daddies" are swarming around Kent State coeds, many of whom are eagerly accepting offers of financial support.
The company's successful handouts follow a pattern, starting with a supposed news hook -- "College is expensive, and many students are graduating with massive amounts of debt" -- before telling how
horny generous clients come to the rescue.
Wednesday's WWJ post helpfully links to a report on its site early this year with the head MSU Ranks on Sugar Babies Schools List.
Forgive us if we don't praise the station for conscientiously providing that context in its latest 2013 coverage of Seeking Arrangement's newsworthiness.
CBS Detroit market manager Debbie Kenyon was invited to respond to three questions emailed Wednesday afternoon. Her comments will be added when received.