The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
Monkeys pick cotton, a 19th-century urban legend
The Sandpaper Test, 1960
Iceberg floats into Sydney Harbor, 1978
Use your left ear to detect lies
Dog wins art contest, 1974
Fake Fish Photos
The Nobody For President Campaign, 1940 to Present
The Great Space Monkey Hoax, 1953
Mule elected G.O.P. committeeman, 1938
war of the worlds
The night Martians invaded New Jersey, 1938
Non-Smokers Not Fired
Last week quite a few papers ran this story:

NON-SMOKERS NEED NOT APPLY
BERLIN -- The owner of a small German computer company has fired three non-smoking workers because they were threatening to push demands for a smoke-free environment.
The manager of the 10-member IT company in Buesum, named Thomas J., told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper he had fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.
"I can't be bothered with trouble-makers," Thomas said. "We're on the phone all the time and it's just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It's time for revenge. I'm only going to hire smokers from now on."


Turns out, the story was a hoax. Stephanie Lamprecht, the reporter whose name appeared on the byline, said that her source -- some guy named Thomas Joschko -- just made it up: "He said it was a joke and worth the trouble. He said he's a chain-smoker himself and said he was tired of smokers being hassled so much."

From what I understand, it's not clear that Thomas Joschko even owns a business. He's just a guy who picked up a phone and told a reporter a wild story, trusting that the reporter would do minimal fact checking before running it.

This was the same modus operandi of Joseph Mulhattan, one of the most prolific hoaxers in America at the end of the nineteenth century. He would invent bizarre stories and wire them to papers, which would invariably print them. It's nice to see that the same tricks still work.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jan 15, 2008
Comments (5)
I don't want to give away any of the Secrets of Professional Media Hoaxers (we have a code of silence just like magicians) but it's sometimes surprising what you can get journalists to buy.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jan 15, 2008  at  03:40 AM
I'm so tempted to do this, especially with the entertainment and technology trades - urinalism at its best!

Are there legal consequences to pulling one over on a publication, printed or electronic?
Posted by David B.  on  Tue Jan 15, 2008  at  11:06 AM
The more I learn about the news media, this less I believe that any ethics or professionalism are ever involved in news reporting.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Tue Jan 15, 2008  at  04:13 PM
"Are there legal consequences to pulling one over on a publication, printed or electronic?"

Assuming that you're not engaging in fraud (trying to make money fraudulently), so far as I know, it isn't illegal to "pull one over" on the press. I say this as a person who has been involved in a number of media hoaxes which have gotten national attention, not as an attorney (which I'm not) so take that into consideration.

If you think about it, politicians lie to reporters all the time; if it was illegal, you'd expect that at least one of them would have been taken to court over it by now.

"The more I learn about the news media, [the] less I believe that any ethics or professionalism are ever involved in news reporting."

I can't say ethics are NEVER involved in news reporting, but, based on some of the stories I've been personally involved with, the motto seems to be "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jan 15, 2008  at  08:27 PM
By the way, David B., can you say what kind of thing you have in mind? I wouldn't go into specifics if I was you, but can you give us a general idea of what you're thinking of doing?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Jan 15, 2008  at  08:28 PM
Commenting is no longer available for this post.
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.