— Petar Mikonoss and Dragana Stepic purportedly write for once-popular women’s site The Frisky. There’s no evidence either of them actually exist
In its heyday, The Frisky was one of the most beloved women’s sites on the internet. Founded by Turner Broadcasting in 2008, the site offered a “unique brand of funny, informative and relatable content written by an array of authentic female voices.”
After multiple changes in ownership, in 2018 the site permanently closed and the domain name bought over by Nebojsa Vujinovic aka DJ Vujo#91, a Serbian music producer who plagiarised the site’s brand name and republished the site’s old content using fake bylines. Vujinovic currently sells backlinks on the site from his Fiverr account.
You can check out Vujinovic’s feminist credentials here:
I wrote about the site’s unhappy afterlife for BuzzFeed News last April (the story was later cited by The New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, and even The Frisky’s own Wikipedia page). But it appears not everyone got the memo.
Around November, the site was listed on media database Muck Rack and given a green verification badge, which is similar to the blue badge Twitter uses to show that an account is authentic.
“The Frisky has been verified by Muck Rack’s editorial team,” claimed a message on the listing, which included incorrect information about the site’s current ownership.
Shortly after adding The Frisky, Muck Rack listed and verified Petar Mikonoss and Dragana Stepic, seemingly creations of Vujinovic whose bylines currently adorn articles plagiarised from The Frisky’s former writers, and from other sites such as Showbiz CheatSheet (multiple copyright and defamation complaints have been made against The Frisky since Vujinovic took over).
Here’s Mikonoss’ verified profile on Muck Rack:
And here’s Mikonoss’ byline on The Frisky, which includes such quality content as “Why Being a Biker Is Simply the Best” (“A: Kids are crazy about you”), “Why Do You Need to Buy an Inflatable Hot Tub?” (A: “They Are Cheap”), and “Tricky Snowflake Test Questions You Might Encounter on Your Job Interview” (Eg. “What are your thoughts on transgender people?” and “What was the last time you cried and why? WOW!”):
A reverse image search shows that Mikonoss’ profile photo is actually of Peter Pfeffer, associate professor of Developmental Biology and Reproduction at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
In an e-mail, Pfeffer said he didn’t give permission for Vujinovic to use his photo.
“No I did not give permission for anyone to use it,” said Pfeffer. “Odd that it was on The Frisky in the first place as I have never visited that site.”
I was unable to find the person shown in Stepic’s profile photo. But a name included in the photo’s URL suggests their name is Dragana Berbetovic.
Former editors for The Frisky told me they had never heard of Mikonoss or Stepic.
Robyn Pennacchia, a former writer and editor for the site, said she had “no idea who those people are.”
The site’s former EIC, Amelia McDonell-Parry — whose name appears numerous times in Muck Rack’s database as having co-bylined stories with Stepic — said she’d “never in my life” heard of Mikonoss or Stepic.
“I can assure you that any article bylined with my name AND any one of these bizarrely named fake people was ONLY written by me, and me alone,” McDonell-Parry said. “For example, the article in this screenshot (below) was 100% ALL ME not me and fake ass DRAGANA.”
In an e-mail, Muck Rack’s editor Sean Kiely said his editorial team had used automated tools to identify and create profiles for the two seemingly fake journalists.
Muck Rack finds new articles published at media outlets around the world from RSS feeds and Twitter handles and then we use technology to identify the author of any article by that article’s byline. Once we identify the author, we add the article to that journalist’s existing Muck Rack profile or we create a Muck Rack profile for that person. These profiles you have sent us have been automatically created using our technology with the name that corresponds to the byline on the articles.
The green verified badge on Muck Rack lets people know that a profile page meets Muck Rack’s criteria to be defined as a verified journalist, and that the information is maintained by Muck Rack’s Editorial team. We understand that many journalists and writers use pen names, so one of the most important factors our Editorial team considers when verifying a profile is the frequency at which the journalist is published, which is why these profiles are verified.
Asked to clarify if Muck Rack’s verification process is strictly automated, Kiely said his editorial team is “made up of humans who are reviewing profiles.”
While Muck Rack does have an Editorial team made up of humans who are reviewing profiles, we create hundreds of profiles a week, so we do our best to stay on top of these issues.
We’ve removed this outlet and these profiles from Muck Rack’s search.
Muck Rack’s listing for The Frisky now redirects to a directory of media outlets.
Mikonoss and Stepic are still listed in Muck Rack’s database, although without their verification badges.