Did the NYT Get Punk’d by the DABA Girls?

banks600.jpgA little background first for those of you not up to speed on the women of DABA (Dating a Banker Anonymous). Earlier this week the New York Times profiled a group of women who had started a “support” website where they could complain to each other about how their “quality of life” has suffered now that their banker boyfriends find themselves out of work. The homepage of the website declares: “Are you or someone you love dating a banker? If so, we are here to support you through these difficult times. Dating A Banker Anonymous (DABA) is a safe place where women can come together — free from the scrutiny of feminists — and share their tearful tales of how the mortgage meltdown has affected their relationships.” Per the Times piece:

In addition to meeting once or twice weekly for brunch or drinks at a bar or restaurant, the group has a blog, billed as “free from the scrutiny of feminists,” that invites women to join “if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life.

Not surprisingly the article created an immediate uproar on the Internets, which was further compounded by rumors that the group of women had landed themselves a book deal (people we’ve talked to in publishing say the details on the deal, including whether it has actually happened, are still fuzzy). However over at NPR Linda Holmes isn’t buying any of it! She thinks the whole thing is some elaborate hoax.

**UPDATE** The Times responds to Holmes’ assertion, after the jump.

Isn’t it totally obvious that the “support group” reported on in the Times doesn’t exist, that these are three women — two writers and an attorney — who figured out how to tap our deep societal hatred of the recession and hatred of privileged women who get away with everything, and to combine it into a big giant phenomenon that would produce so much instant vitriol that they would absolutely, definitely get a book deal?

Holmes lists a number of reasons which lead her to doubt the veracity of the site: the domain was only registered 13 days ago even though entries date back to September; there are no comments anywhere on the blog that predate Monday when the Times article was published, etc. All things that could be explained, she conceded, but haven’t been, and furthermore were not addressed in the Times piece.

So! Two issues here. If indeed there is a book deal what sort of book deal is it? Fiction? Memoir? Publishing has got itself into a lot of hot water in recent years over poorly vetted “memoirs.” That said, who’s to say, if this is an elaborate hoax, that it wasn’t pitched to the publisher as such. The bigger issue, if this does turn out to be a hoax, will be that the New York Times fell for it, and as a result so did its readers under the assumption that the Times (who, lets face it, is always behind the curve where trend pieces are concerned) would properly vet a piece like this before printing (and who’s to say they didn’t, we’re just speculating here). It is, no doubt, the last thing the Times wants to deal with in what has already been a crappy week.


New York Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty on the topic:

Ravi Somaiya, a freelancer for The Times, first heard about the DABA group in early October, when he met Megan Petrus at a party. The blog started shortly afterward at this address http://dabagirls.tumblr.com/page/1.

Ravi told his editor about it in December and began reporting in earnest after the New Year.

The fact that they moved their site and gussied it up did not seem worth noting in the article and does not seem particularly surprising or important now.

As for the size of the group/blog audience: We never said, nor implied, it was some kind of mass phenomenon. We made it clear that it was informal, we said that five women were at the cocktail-session we attended. The reason we liked the story — likely the same reason it has attracted so much attention — is that we knew it was resonant with many people who had nothing to do with their group but found themselves in similar situations.

I’m not sure what the person who wrote on NPR.org thinks might be fake about this. Ravi did talk to some of the men to verify the relationships and get their side.