Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Guarding against Hoaxes

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Guarding against Hoaxes

Article excerpt

Those two smartass disk jockeys who flimflammed that newspaper in the Pacific Northwest not long ago are probably pretty proud of themselves.

The disk jockeys, playing the sort of sophomoric games that make disk jockeys such highly respected people, planted a fake wedding announcement in the newspaper. They cooked up a phony press release and sent it in with a photo of one disk jockey in a tux and the other, in drag, in a wedding gown. Guess what; it got printed.

Very funny, these guys. Chuckle, chuckle. I am sure they made the biggest deal imaginable of this over the air, but it was strictly a small-time hoax. It was nothing compared with some of the others perpetrated on people in our line of work. We guard against them, but the lust to plant fraudulent material in newspapers seems to know no boundaries either generational or international.

For example:

This incident took place in a large Southern city I will not identify, on the night of July 7, 1953. That was the night that three guys--just picture Larry, his brother Darrell, and his other brother Darrell--walked into the local newspaper office and told an editor this story:

Larry and the Darrells were driving along a highway just outside the city when they spotted a flying saucer sitting right in the middle of the road. Two little red men were standing near the saucer. When they saw Larry and the Darrells, the space guys scampered into the saucer. Then the thing flashed red and blue and zipped up and out of sight.

"Uh-huh," the editor said.

"Well, yeah," Larry told him while the Darrells nodded enthusiastically in agreement. "But, y'see, this one little red feller, he didn't make it to the saucer on time, and we was headin' toward that sucker so danged fast than we just done run over him by mistake with our pick-up. Killed that pore little feller stone daid."

"Uh-huh," the editor said.

"Got him right here, though," Larry told the editor. And he did, too. What Larry and the Darrells showed the editor was smallish, red, definitely dead and definitely not human. So, the next day, the newspaper ran a front page story headlined:

Hairless critter

killed, two escape

Larry and the Darrells became instant celebrities. Newspapers all over the country picked up the story. Military officials became interested, and so did a squad of scientists. The scientists examined the little red corpse with tweezers and microscopes. They poked and proded, sliced and sampled, scratched their chins and finally offered a verdict.

It was a rhesus monkey--shaved and the tail neatly sliced off. It seems that Larry and the Darrells, a butcher and two barbers, had this $50 bet going that involved getting their names on the front page of the local newspaper.

A few years ago, a similar story was reported by Tass, the once extremely official Soviet news agency. At the peak of the Cold War, we Americans would never have heard about this, but glasnots had Tass behaving as though its editors harbored a secret affection for the National Enquirer. Tass reported that "scientists" had confirmed that an alien spaceship carrying giant creatures with tiny heads had touched down near Voronezh, a city about the size of Boston, roughly 300 miles away from Moscow. Later, a Soviet newspaper expanded on the story. …

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