(CBS) — Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper has admitted to buying Twitter followers and under an agreement with the newspaper will de-activate his current Twitter account to start a new one as he resumes writing columns.
The Sun-Times announced Friday evening it had concluded an investigation into Roeper’s social-media accounts, in the wake of a New York Times report that he was among journalists and celebrities who had purchased followers from a company called Devumi. The legitimacy of the company and the Twitter followers it sells came under question.
“Roeper purchased about 50,000 followers on at least six separate occasions between July 2014 and July 2016,” the Sun-Times said. “Three of those purchases were from Devumi; the other three purchases were from another company. In all, Roeper spent about $650 on the purchases out of his personal accounts.”
Roeper had been benched this week since the internal investigation began. He cooperated fully and presented records of the transactions, the paper said.
The longtime journalist will continue to write film reviews and entertainment stories for the Sun-Times but won’t write news columns, the paper said. This appeared to be an about-face from a recent Sun-Times announcement that Roeper would return as a general-interest columnist.
The Sun-Times says it “will implement a policy to clarify what we thought was obvious — that journalists should not pay to acquire followers on social media.”
The paper said Roeper was “contrite” about the purchases. He offered this statement:
New York Times reportage has named me as one of many people that have purchased Twitter followers.
The reports are accurate. On a number of occasions, in an effort to build my brand, I bought Twitter followers. I did this on my own, without the knowledge of the Chicago Sun-Times or any other media organization for which I have worked.
In the interest of transparency and a fresh start, I will be voluntarily deactivating my Twitter account and launching a new account.
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.