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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Journalism
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)

BBC Falls for Bhopal Hoax — The hoaxing of the BBC has now been all over the news. In case you haven't heard, on Friday the BBC broadcast an interview with a man claiming to be a representative of Dow Chemical, Jude Finisterra (is the guy's last name supposed to mean 'the end of the world'?). During the interview the man said that Dow had decided to accept full responsibility for the chemical disaster that killed thousands of people in Bhopal twenty years ago, and in addition it would pay $12 billion in…
Posted: Sat Dec 04, 2004.   Comments (0)

Name Change for I-69 — Is Indiana Congressman John Hostettler really introducing legislation to change the name of Interstate 69 to Interstate 63, because religious groups feel that I-69 is too risque whereas I-63 is more 'moral sounding'? Of course not. But the story has spread pretty far by now. When I first saw the headline linked to on Blogdex, I assumed it was real after glancing at it quickly. I should have known better. After all, the story comes from the Hoosier Gazette, which is becoming well known…
Posted: Tue Nov 16, 2004.   Comments (14)

Ananova Corrections — I've said before that I don't trust the Ananova news service, and now here's proof that they really do make some questionable claims. Craig Silverman, of Regret the Error, links to Ananova's corrections page where they apologize for the following strange errors, among others (though personally I think the corrections they've listed are only the tip of the iceberg): Robotic relief - an apology. On September 11, we published a story suggesting that Indian scientists had invented a robot…
Posted: Wed Oct 27, 2004.   Comments (4)

Slovakian Satire Reported as News — Here's another case of the media in one country reporting another country's satire as straight news. About a week ago the Austrian paper Der Standard reported that a Canadian-American company was going to privatise and expand the Bratislava airport, which would involve the relocation of the entire village of Ivanka pri Dunaji. And where did Der Standard get this story? From the website of sme.sk, a Slovakian paper. It didn't notice that the story was over six months old and dated April…
Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2004.   Comments (0)

CBS and the Bush Memos — Looks like while I was on vacation I missed the riveting spectacle of CBS News falling flat on its face and humiliating itself by falling for an obvious hoax involving President Bush's service (or lack of it) in the National Guard. A lot of ink has already been spilled over this (especially about the difference between Microsoft Word-produced fonts and typewriter-produced fonts), so I won't repeat the whole sorry episode. But I did notice that many commentators have pointed out that…
Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2004.   Comments (0)

Meteor Hoax — A couple of people have sent me links to this meteor hoax that the AP fell for. The AP reported that a meteor about the size of a small car hit near Olympia, Washington early this morning. Its source for this story was one Bradley Hammermaster, supposedly an Astronomy professor at the University of Washington, who called in a report of the meteor to Seattle's KIRO radio. The AP later had to admit that, "No one by the name of Hammermaster is known to the astronomy department, and the…
Posted: Thu Jun 03, 2004.   Comments (2)

Has Rumsfeld Banned Camera Phones in Iraq? — Lots of media outlets have been reporting that Rumsfeld has decided to ban camera phones in Iraq, in the wake of the photos of prisoner abuse coming out of Abu Ghraib. For instance, the story is on Yahoo! news, the Washington Times, and The Sydney Morning Herald. The Register, at least, points out that there are doubts about the story, while also noting that it would be almost impossible to actually enforce such a ban. But what's the source for this news. The Sydney Morning Herald
Posted: Tue May 25, 2004.   Comments (1)

Five Hoaxes that Fooled the British Media — Following up on the recent hoaxing of the Daily Mirror, the Guardian offers quick summaries of five other hoaxes that fooled the British media: the Diana tape affair, the Hitler Diaries, the British Leyland 'slush fund,' Martin Boormann alive, and the Zinoviev Letter.
Posted: Mon May 17, 2004.   Comments (0)

Daily Mirror Hoaxed — The photos of British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners published by the Daily Mirror turn out to have been staged, as was speculated since the photos first saw the light of day. The board of the Daily Mirror has apologized for printing them and fired its editor, Piers Morgan. Tip-offs that the photos were fake included:One soldier was carrying a type of rifle not issued to soldiers in IraqThe soldiers were wearing the wrong type of hatOne of the vehicles shown in a photo was a type…
Posted: Sun May 16, 2004.   Comments (0)

Quarantine — What would you be willing to do for a brief shot at fame? Would you embarrass yourself on national TV? Of course, who wouldn't nowadays. But would you lock yourself in a lab and allow yourself to be exposed to all manner of infectious diseases? That sounds a bit dodgy, but this was the premise of the new reality TV show, Quarantine, recently advertised in the Daily Mirror. Remarkably, hundreds of people applied to be on it, and the applications are still rolling in. Thankfully the whole…
Posted: Tue May 11, 2004.   Comments (1)

New Zealand Rapper MC Emu — On the Fighting Talk weblog journalism student Patrick Crewdson gives an example of how hoaxes can make the leap from being fiction into becoming fact. He once edited a journal called Critic that published a joke article about "New Zealand's least-known musician": rapper MC Emu. Of course, MC Emu was fictitious, but now references to this rapper have begun to appear in serious histories of New Zealand music... references that seem to credit MC Emu with being a real character.
Posted: Tue Apr 13, 2004.   Comments (1)

Stories that sound like jokes, but aren’t — Every year on April 1 reporters test our wits by mixing in a few joke stories with the real ones. But then there are also the stories that are real, but sound like jokes. These stories challenge us to keep our skepticism under control. This year, the biggest example of that was Google's Gmail announcement that had many people swearing it must be a joke. Then we also had an article released by the British National Archives describing a bizarre WWII plan to place chickens inside of…
Posted: Fri Apr 02, 2004.   Comments (3)

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.