Thursday, April 26, 2018
Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt. He's always got the new data, featuring irresistible twists: One in five students use extra money from their student loans to buy digital currencies. Nearly 8 percent of students would move to North Korea to free themselves of their debt. Twenty-seven percent would contract the Zika virus to live debt-free. All of those surveys came from Cloud's website, The Student Loan Report. He became ubiquitous on that topic. But he's a fiction, the invention of a student-loan refinancing company. That didn't stop major news organizations from taking his "word" as gospel.
After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud's existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.
Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn't respond to additional inquiries.
And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with "SLR Editor." Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.
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