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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Journalism
Computer Programme Debunks Pianist — English pianist Joyce Hatto had risen to some prominence over the year preceding her death. Whilst she never played in public, recordings of her performances of works by artists such as Liszt, Schubert, Rachmaninov and Dukas, produced by her husband from a private studio, had her hailed as an unknown genius. However, an iTunes programme that compares recordings with an online database has thrown her abilities into doubt. A critic for the classical music magazine Gramophone was…
Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007.   Comments (10)

Quick Links: Chicken Born With Duck Feet, etc. — Chicken Born With Duck Feet A chicken in Columbia has surprised everyone by being born with webbed feet and legs like a duck. Vetinary experts say that the chicken is not a result of cross-species breeding, and is just a genetic mishap. (Thanks, Adam.) Divine Or Delusional? wcbstv.com has a gallery of images showing items on which religious icons have allegedly been found. We've covered a few of them here, but some of the images were new to me. I found I could generally make out the…
Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2007.   Comments (15)

Quick Links: Square Watermelon, etc. — Flora and I have decided on a more efficient way to post links that really don't need (or don't deserve) an entire post of their own. We'll just dump them together in a "quick links" post whenever we accumulate a bunch of them. Should mean more stuff gets posted. Here's the first such set of links: Square Watermelon Soon to be on sale in Britain. Really. "Boxes are placed around the growing fuit which naturally swells to fill the shape." Buy two and get a bonsai kitten free! (Thanks,…
Posted: Mon Aug 07, 2006.   Comments (18)

Journalist Fakes Bill Gates Interview — Status: News Microsoft has accused a Norwegian journalist of fabricating, out of thin air, an interview with Bill Gates. Bjoern Benkow, the journalist in question, claimed that he interviewed Gates while onboard a commercial flight. Gates apparently didn't share any interesting secrets with the guy, only that "rival search engine giant Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ) has "been smart," that he never carries more than a "dime" in his pocket and that he occasionally places $1 bets…
Posted: Fri Aug 04, 2006.   Comments (4)


Naked Skydiving — Status: Hoax Here's an amusing article that deserves mention on Regret the Error (the weblog about newspaper corrections), if it isn't already there.Tabloid Aftonbladet has been forced to withdraw an article about naked Swedish skydivers, after it turned out that the paper had been the victim of a hoax. The article, headed "It's wonderful - but cold", described how Stockholm Skydiving Club had celebrated spring by jumping from a height of 4,000 metres in their birthday suits. The paper…
Posted: Fri May 12, 2006.   Comments (7)

Fake News On Your TV — Status: advertising disguised as news In Hippo Eats Dwarf I discuss Video News Releases (VNRs) and how their use means that a lot of the news we see on TV is either advertising or propaganda in disguise. (VNRs are video segments created by corporations or the government, that are then aired on TV news, often without their true source ever being revealed). RAW STORY reports that "over a ten month span, 77 television stations from all across the nation aired video news releases without…
Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2006.   Comments (2)

CNet April Fools Article — Status: Journalistic errors CNet has an article about April Fool's Day hoaxes on the internet. It has some interesting info in it, but surprisingly it makes two rather large errors. First of all, it describes the Microsoft iLoo (an internet-enabled portable toilet) from 2003 as an April Fool's Day hoax. Microsoft announced the iLoo on April 30, making it a real stretch to describe it as an April Fool's Day hoax. But more importantly, although Microsoft did initially say the iLoo was a…
Posted: Sat Apr 01, 2006.   Comments (0)

Google Hires 15-Year Old — Status: Hoax 15-year old Tom Vandetta found a neat trick described on the internet: how to upload a fake press release to a free wire service, and get Google News to pick it up and disseminate it, thereby making it look like real news. Of course, he couldn't resist trying this trick out, so he decided to write a release from Google itself announcing that they were hiring him: (I-Newswire) - 15 year old student, Tom Vendetta has been hired by search engine giant Google Inc. The student…
Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2006.   Comments (18)

The Disappearing Blonde Gene — Status: Hoax reported as news Peter Frost has an article in the current issue of Evolution and Human Behavior in which he argues that the trait for blonde hair evolved 10,000 years ago in northern Europe because men found blonde women to be attractive--and because there were more women than men, the women had to compete for the men. (I'm simplifying his argument a lot.) But I'm not bringing this up to make a point about Frost's article. Instead, I'm bringing it up because the London…
Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2006.   Comments (32)

Woman Clings To Ice With Her Teeth — Status: Undetermined Ananova, All Headline News, the Mumbai Mirror, and a couple of other highly reputable news sources are reporting a story about a Hungarian woman who fell through the ice while ice skating, and stopped herself from drowning by gripping the edge of the ice with her teeth: The 29-year-old woman was practicing on Lake Velence when the ice cracked and she fell in. With frostbite setting in and her hands unable to move, the only thing left was to grip the edge with her…
Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2006.   Comments (19)

Elephant Loose in St. Petersburg — Status: Hoax Ananova reports that an elephant is on the loose in St. Petersburg: The animal, which was being transported through Russia by an unnamed Finnish company, escaped from its container by smashing through its walls. There have been a number of sightings around the city but no one has tried to catch the elephant yet. But it appears that Ananova has done its usual thorough job of fact-checking, because the Moscow Times reports that the elephant was probably a hoax: St.…
Posted: Mon Dec 19, 2005.   Comments (5)

The Bear on the California Flag Should Have Been a Pear — Status: Hoax A reporter for Inside Bay Area (I don't know his name... it's not given with the article) recently recounted how his granddaughter told him that the bear on the California flag was originally supposed to be a pear. Back in 1846, Capt. Jedediah Bartlett, leader of a band of rebels fighting against the Mexican authorities in California, supposedly drew up a flag for the future state. He thought a pear, as a symbol of the region's agriculture, would be a fitting symbol. But…
Posted: Sun Nov 13, 2005.   Comments (15)

Planet-Dissolving Dust Cloud Headed Toward Earth — Status: Fake; an example of the Weekly World News Effect. I've received a couple of emails about this article on Yahoo! News detailing a cosmic "chaos cloud" that will obliterate the earth in 2014: CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Scared-stiff astronomers have detected a mysterious mass they've dubbed a "chaos cloud" that dissolves everything in its path, including comets, asteroids, planets and entire stars -- and it's headed directly toward Earth! Discovered April 6 by NASA's Chandra X-ray…
Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005.   Comments (18)

Fake Quotes in Newspaper — Whenever I see the opinion of a 'man on the street' quoted in a newspaper, I always wonder if the quote is for real since it would be so easy for a reporter to simply make something up without interviewing anyone. Now here's a case, at the Reidsville Review, where that actually happened. The reporters invented quotations, but, strangely enough, attributed the quotations to real people. They should have just gone ahead and put the phony quotes in the mouths of phony people: The…
Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2005.   Comments (15)

Phony Seal Hunt — The latest nugget of fake news from the world of journalism concerns a seal hunt that never took place. A Boston Globe writer, Barbara Stewart, described the slaughter of baby seals off the coast of Newfoundland in great detail. What she didn't know was that the hunt had been delayed, and so hadn't begun yet. Oops.
Posted: Mon Apr 18, 2005.   Comments (12)

Fake Sports Reporter — As a representative of Westchester Cable Services, Mark Sabia has been allowed into press boxes at sports games for years. The one problem is that Westchester Cable Services doesn't exist. The teams finally figured out he didn't belong there (but it was a good scam while it lasted): Sabia, who lives in Ossining, was arrested Monday when he showed up to cover Opening Day at Shea and was charged with scamming season passes for almost all of New York's professional teams, as well as for…
Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2005.   Comments (5)

Jeff Gannon, Ace Reporter — So this guy Jeff Gannon shows up at the White House and wants press credentials so that he can attend the President's press conference. But his real name isn't Jeff Gannon, and he isn't really a reporter, although he's been playing one on the internet for a few months. His experience as a journalist seems to consist of posting slightly reworded Republican press releases on the website of Talon News, which is a conservative news outlet that hardly anyone has heard of (and which is also a…
Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2005.   Comments (39)

Worst Weatherman Ever — Here's a video going around showing what has to be, quite easily, the worst weather broadcast ever. It's so bad you begin to suspect that it was staged. But I don't think so. It seems to be a student-run news show broadcast by Ohio University Public Television. Not to be harsh, but this guy should really think about pursuing a different career. Reporting the weather doesn't seem to be his thing. Update: Apparently there's a few more weird weathermen videos going around (weird…
Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005.   Comments (19)

Actual Headlines From 2004 — I received an email containing this list of THE YEAR'S BEST [ACTUAL] HEADLINES OF 2004! But, of course, these aren't really headlines from 2004. This list has been going around for at least four years. Check out this competition from 2000 in which people created images to match some of these headlines. Plus, I doubt any of these were ever actual headlines either.Crack Found on Governor's Daughter.Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says.Police Begin Campaign to Run Down…
Posted: Wed Jan 05, 2005.   Comments (7)

Most Dubious News Stories — Alan Caruba, Founder of an organization called The National Anxiety Center, has published a list of the 'Most Dubious News Stories of the Year'. Some of the entries include: The University of Szeged in Hungary announcing that mobile phones may damage men's spermReuters reporting that tens of millions of people in America may drown when a volcano in Africa cataclysmically collapses into the sea (though scientists only think this will happen 'sometime in the next few thousand years')The…
Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2004.   Comments (19)

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