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The Guardian's April Fool's Day Hoaxes
San Serriffe. (1977)
The Guardian published a seven-page "special report" about San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. The report generated a huge response. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. However, San Serriffe did not actually exist. The report was an elaborate joke — one with a typographical twist, since numerous details about the island (such as its name) alluded to printer's terminology.The success of the hoax is widely credited with inspiring the British media's enthusiasm for April More…
The British Weather Machine. (1981)
The Guardian reported that scientists at Britain's research labs in Pershore had "developed a machine to control the weather." A series of articles explained that, "Britain will gain the immediate benefit of long summers, with rainfall only at night, and the Continent will have whatever Pershore decides to send it." Readers were also assured that Pershore scientists would make sure that it snowed every Christmas in Britain. A photograph showed a scruffy-looking scientist surrounded by scientific equipment, with the caption, "Dr. Chisholm-Downright expresses quiet satisfaction as a computer printout announces sunshine in Pershore and a forthcoming blizzard over Marseilles." More…
Gourmet Bingo. (1985)
The Guardian announced that under a new incentive plan, each of its readers would be eligible to receive a "Guardian Gourmet Card," allowing them to gain a 15% discount at participating restaurants. The card would also allow holders to be eligible for 850,000 pounds in prize money. Each card would display a ten digit number broken into a sequence of three-four-three. Each week top chefs would be asked to select their favorite three course dinner. A menu would be randomly selected from among these choices, and then the total calories in each course would be determined. These calorie amounts would become the prize-winning number, to be matched against the numbers on a card. In a separate article, the Guardian admitted there was some similarity between their Gourmet bingo game and a bingo-style scheme launched by their competitor, the Standard, to earn reductions on restaurant meals (a scheme which the Guardian had derided as tawdry and commercial). But the Guardian's editor noted: "I cannot of course deny that there is pounds 850,000 at stake here... Nevertheless the whole tone and refined taste of the competition, redolent of wild strawberries rather than the sweaty armpits of the More…
First Photograph Discovered. (1987)
The camera manufacturer Olympus ran an ad in The Guardian announcing the discovery of "the first picture ever taken." The picture had been discovered "in a cave high in the remote Outer Fokus Mountains." It had been taken by Yorimoto Hishida around 1782, "almost a full half century before the earliest work of either Fox Talbot or Nicéphore Niépce." More…
The Guardian Switches to Twitter. (2009)
The Guardian announced it would become "the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter," thus rendering its printing presses obsolete. It also revealed an ongoing project to rewrite its entire news archive in the form of "tweets" (Twitter's text messages limited to 140 characters each). Examples included: "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!" "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more" "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?" More…
Step Outside, Posh Boy. (2010)
The Guardian writer "Olaf Priol" reported that the UK Labour party had decided to embrace Prime Minister Gordon Brown's "reputation for anger and physical aggression" by rolling out a series of campaign ads that presented Brown as a "hard man, unafraid of confrontation." One ad had Brown declaring, "Step outside, posh boy," followed by the tagline: "Vote Labour. Or else." Another ad asked, "Do you want some of this?" The hope was that voters would be drawn to an alpha-male personality who was "prepared to pummel, punch or even headbutt the British economy into a new era of jobs and prosperity." More…
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