The Age fires freelancer who faked viral ‘Melbourne man’ hipster profile

Fairfax newspaper The Age will no longer use the services of freelancer Tara Kenny after it was revealed she had faked two fashion vox pops for the paper’s Street Seen section with her friends.

The Age melbourne hipster

The Age vox pop which remains online.

The paper ran a ‘Street Seen’ fashion profile penned by Melbourne University student Kenny on ‘Samuel Davide Hains’, showcasing the hipster’s interesting dress sense including back to front overalls, a pink beret and sporting a tote bag.

However the piece attracted a lot of attention on social media and spread globally, with news outlets including, ABC News, the UK Independent, Daily Mail, FoxFM and Metro in the UK dubbing him the “world’s biggest hipster”, and ‘Melbourne man’.

In the interview, which is supposed to see a reporter stop someone with interesting dress sense in the street for a quick vox pop, Hains highlighted the virtues of K Mart fashion, Trotsky in leather, and “bucolic jazz socialism”.

However Hains has since admitted the whole thing was a hoax in an interview Vice, saying he was a friend of Kenny and the pair had cooked up the comedic “persona” for the column, adding her previous effort for the column was also fabricated with a friend.

“My friend Tara (Kenny) runs the ‘Street Seen’ column [in The Age] and asked me if I wanted to do it. The decision to do it in character was impulsive. I think the impulse to do it in character initially came from wanting to avoid the embarrassment of doing the column sincerely,” Hains told Vice.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.07.06 pm

ABC story on Hains.

“Street Seen seemed like a great platform for performance, given the fact that the subject is represented as their authentic self, caught on the street. I felt I could experiment with the reader’s willingness to engage with me as an ‘unstaged,’ ‘natural’ character.

“I LOVE jazz and I am a web developer. Davide is not a person, but he is a persona — there are elements of my authentic self in Davide. Once we had the outfit together, Tara asked me the questions, and I just said the first thing that came into my head. I was just trying to be funny.”

He explained how he had borrowed the pink beret from Kenny, adding: “I put the overalls on backwards by mistake, we thought it was funny so we just rolled with it. Tara suggested I needed a bag and grabbed the tote.”

UK newspaper The Independent

UK newspaper The Independent picked up the story

In a statement for Mumbrella Kenny apologised for her actions saying she never intended to “troll” Fairfax editors, adding: “I understand that there are journalistic principles of integrity that need to be adhered to, but personally see a rather significant distinction between making up content for hard news stories and exaggerating a character for a street fashion column.” See her full statement at the end of this article.

Hains went public after a number of media outlets, including The Age, did follow ups stories on how the vox pop had gone viral and noting that people were raising questions about its legitimacy.

Age front page“Hipster or hero? Fashion icon or phoney?,” wrote Age journalists Melissa Singer and Beau Donelly in a front page story earlier this week in The Age. “These are the questions being asked about 24-year-old Melbourne web developer Samuel Davide Hains, whose back-to-front vintage overalls and esoteric musings on Trotsky and being a “mystery blogger and jazz kitten” have catapulted him from street style subject to global phenomenon.”

Vice also reported that Kenny had run other fake fashion pops include one of their friend Maillie, which was published under the name of Molly Eliza Halloran, whose picture appears to have been taken in front of the same wall as Hains’.

This vox pop was also exposed as a fake

This vox pop was also exposed as a fake

Hains also told Vice how easy it was to fool the media, taking aim at Age rival He told how Maillie Halloran had been interviewed after he failed to answer their questions.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.13.49 pm story on Hains.

“It’s hilarious, she’s amazing. kept asking me for an interview, but I was at work and I saw the article was published on anyway. Maillie was interviewed instead, and was able to completely fabricate a story about my childhood with no consent and feed it to the media.”

Among the quotes from Halloran ran were: ““No kidding, he once wore a torn garbage bag as a rain poncho. The only reason he got away with it was because he was the school’s star English and politics student.

“I think they thought they had the next Allen Ginsberg or Andy Warhol on their hands so they let it all go by.”

It is understood that the publisher has told staff it will not be using Kenny’s services again after she was questioned about Hains authenticity and told the newspaper he was legitimate.

In a statement posted on The Age website this afternoon Age editor Alex Lavelle said:”We always suspected some of the comments were tongue in cheek – after all, who wears dungarees backwards and pairs their K-Mart purchases with a Chanel cape? Street Seen has always involved a lighter look at Melbourne fashion,”

“What is not acceptable, however, is that the journalist concocted the plan with her friend and then lied to one of our reporters about her relationship with Mr Hains. Fairfax Media expects all journalists to report truthfully and fairly on all subjects in all sections.

“Ms Kenny will not be doing any work for Fairfax Media in the future and this week’s Street Seen in M Magazine has been scrapped.”

Back in March, Fairfax cut more than 120 editorial staff saying it would rely more on freelancers for copy.

In the wake of the revelation that the story was a hoax a number of social media users have criticised the Fairfax newspaper for not spotting the fake.

Tara Kenny’s statement to Mumbrella in full:

I never intended to deceive or “troll” my editors at Fairfax, the wider media or the general public with the Samuel Davide Hains column. I approached Sam because he wears good outfits and is hilarious – the one thing that has become abundantly clear from all this “viral” madness – and I wanted to share that. He agreed on the condition that he would appear as an exaggerated caricature.

While the column is meant to feature real people spotted organically on the street, it is an inherently playful read that is meant to be entertaining, hence I felt comfortable exercising a level of artistic licence. I understand that there are journalistic principles of integrity that need to be adhered to, but personally see a rather significant distinction between making up content for hard news stories and exaggerating a character for a street fashion column.

I was under the impression that my follow up conversation with The Age reported Melissa Singer was a tongue in cheek exchange, but am truly sorry if my actions have had negative repercussions for her. I also want to mention that I have only been writing this column for two weeks, while the regular writer is away.

I do not wish to implicate her in this! I think it’s a really cute column and only ever wanted to give people a bit of comic relief in this crazy, messed up world. I hope this doesn’t ruin my career, but if it does at least it’s still the funniest and weirdest thing that has ever happened to me. If any other media outlet wants me to write a comedic street fashion column or tell all memoir I am available 😉 While Fairfax has advised that they no longer require my services, I am a freelance writer and the very proud online editor for a magazine called Ladies of Leisure (! My instagram handle is @tk_2k16_


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