B is also for the Fresno Bee this week, which we discussed in our editing lecture. As human nature goes, except for in the world of editing and potentially politics and law, we generally like to trust our neighbor. We fill our phone conversations and e-mail inboxes with the little stories that make-up our lives. Yet, sometimes that trust is taken too far and we are hoodwinked, thrown into the crossfire of pranksters and shown to be gullible lambs. This is especially catastrophic, though sometimes quite humorous, in the world of journalism.
Case in point, the Fresno Bee, who had the wool, or should I say the gills, pulled over their eyes. A fish story they chose to run, a fish story two old ladies spun, and in the end the Bee’s attempt for truth was undone. Oh my puns have just begun. Okay I’ll stop, but wasn’t that fun?
Speaking of fun, the women told a Bee reporter that their story involved a goldfish named Charley, who was owned by one of the women and found by the other. The “finder” placed an ad in the Bee that can be read here on regrettheerror.com. The story seemed too good to be true, thinking about how fragile goldfish can be, but the Bee ran it. The next day they revealed it was a hoax; a joke planned by the women to have a bit of fun. Needless to say the Bee had one in its bonnet, but seemed to run the correction in the spirit of good fun.
Journalists have a reputation to uphold, and cannot sink down to the level of those pesky tabloid reporters who hang out with Batboy, a multitude of talking cats and the alien ambassador to Mars. Sadly all of this unbelief makes it difficult for readers and journalists to tell the strange but true in the face of so much of the strange and false.
Here is a site with some of the biggest journalism hoaxes of all time, it’s a bit lengthy, but entertaining…hmmm…what does that say about us?