Last year, I posted this April Fool's warning:
There is no off season for spoofs. Remember the film team that exposed the low standards of a lot of the reporting about celebrities?
If the stories seemed far-fetched, it was because they were part of a series of fabrications about celebrities ‑ made up and fed to tabloid newspapers by a documentary team that wanted to prove that journalists don't check facts.
That was from October.
As March draws to a close, it's worth repeating this warning, a warning I send around the newsroom every year at this time:
The silly season is upon us. Many publications will be running corrections on April 3 for items they fail to see as pranks on April 1. Don’t let that happen to you – or to your readers.
One editor reminded me about a 1998 prank announcement that fooled the FT:
Guinness brewery issued a press release announcing that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration.
According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, the famous observatory would refer to seconds as "pint drips."
The Financial Times, not realizing that the release was a joke, broke the news in an article in which it discussed how some companies were exploiting the millennium excitement in order to promote their own brand names.
There are sure to be more examples this year. Have you seen any? Comment below.
Update: The UK started the day early, and in style. Some top 2010 spoofs, from a friend's list:
*Ferrets to deliver broadband to rural areas, Telegraph
*AA to use rocketman to rescue stranded motorists, Daily Mail
Funny to read. Not so funny when they are re-told as real news.
That was last year. Every year brings a new type of spoof, and 2011 is no different. That hot, newsy Twitter feed? Think twice, or three times.
A selective guide to fake Twitter feeds: