UPDATE: Film critic Richard Roeper has been reinstated by the Chicago Sun-Times following a suspension for buying followers.
The media outlet’s investigation will result in Roeper losing out on a news column he was just assigned to write, but he will continue with features and TV/film reviews.
A New York Times report in late January found that Roeper was among many celebrities, journalists and others found to have purchased phony Twitter followers. The Sun-Times had just announced he would write a news column, but immediately suspended him while it determined whether he was aware that he was purchasing “fake” followers.
The Sun-Times noted today that Roeper purchased about 50,000 followers on “at least six separate occasions” from a company called Devumi and another outlet. He spent $650 on the purchases, but claimed he thought these were legitimate Twitter followers.
Since Roeper cooperated, was “genuinely contrite,” and the media outlet had no explicit policy banning purchase of Twitter followers, he was reinstated. He will delete his existing Twitter account and start a new one, agreeing not to purchase followers. The Sun-Times said it would implement a policy banning journalists from paying to acquire followers on social media.
Roeper issued a statement apologizing for his actions and vowing a fresh start. “To the thousands of you that followed me on Twitter, I hope you’ll join me at my new Twitter handle, @RichardERoeper. I want to express my thanks to the many colleagues and friends — and readers and listeners and viewers — that have reached out to me over the last few days to express support. Your trust is something I have worked hard to earn over the course of my career. Moving forward, I will do everything I can to keep that trust.”
Roeper and Sun-Times management indicated they would not discuss the matter further publicly.
EARLIER: Chicago Sun-Times film critic and columnist Richard Roeper is under investigation by his media outlet following a New York Times report that named him as one of many celebrities who have paid to artificially boost their Twitter followers.
The Chicago Sun-Times editor confirmed to Inc. in an email that Roeper is under investigation. “We will not be publishing any reviews or columns by Rich until this investigation is complete.”
On Friday, Fusco said Roeper would be adding a news column to his film review duties. Management learned of the potential Twitter issue after that announcement, Fusco said.
Roeper has not responded to the story. There is no indication on how many followers he purchased from a company called Devumi, which uses “bot” accounts to artificially boost total followers. The New York Times reported that other celebs and “influencers” may have bought tens of thousands of followers.
Roeper was the co-host with the late Roger Ebert on the TV show At The Movies. He had 226,000 followers as of Monday, a drop from 253,00 a year ago. He also suddenly lost a significant number of followers in September, only to get a gain of 25,000 shortly thereafter, according to the New York Times.