Is it responsible to con the media ?

mirror fakeLet’s take you back a few years to this picture on the right.

Respected British newspaper the Daily Mirror became the victim of a “calculated and malicious hoax”, printing this and other photos purporting to show British abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

It ended with the editor -Piers Morgan- being sacked.

And just a few weeks ago, there was this hoax – a website claiming to be from the mayor of Baltimore.

The BBC isn’t above being hoaxed either.

We once ran an interview from a spokesman claiming to represent Union Carbide and accepting responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.

Some Bhopal residents broke down in tears when they heard the news – something the hoaxer regretted.

I was on the wrong end of it once when somebody phoned a show i was doing claiming to be a Welsh bowls champion.  He wasn’t who he said was, no harm was done, and the real champion came on later and saw the funny side of it.

But it was a close call.

maN ON MOONThis story has been one of the most popular of the day- the Bangladeshi newspapers who ran a story from the excellent Onion site – not realising it’s not a real news site. 

The Daily Manab Zamin said US astronaut Neil Armstrong had shocked a news conference by saying he now knew it had been an “elaborate hoax”. 

I hasten to add there was no deliberate attempt by the Onion to con anyone !

Here’s a list of other famous hoaxes.

Harmless fun or a joke that hurts people ?

22 Responses to “Is it responsible to con the media ?”

  1. 1 Nelson Isibor
    September 4, 2009 at 19:00

    Is it responsible for the media to run a story without first cross checking it beyond all reasonable doubt?

    I remember that there’s something called “cross checking” and verifying the authenticity of the information. So if any media personnel gets conned, well it was probably their fault.

  2. September 4, 2009 at 19:15

    How in the world could it be responsible to con the media? To show flaws in the media and how information is being researched? If you do it elaborately enough, you can con any media company.

  3. 3 Thomas Murray
    September 4, 2009 at 21:11

    This is why it’s best to have at least two sources to verify a news item. Three, if in danger of major libel, and only one if it’s a quick fluff piece.

    But every year (in the ’70s) at the University of Louisville, the school paper would run an April Fool’s edition. Though it was traditional and expected, it never ceased to amaze me how many people were taken in by it.

    One editor (before me) ran a story about the death of the university’s president — in a big bold front page headline: “Miller Dies in Crash.” One woman was so upset with it she nearly accosted me in the “newsroom.” (I wrote the headline.) The editor was sacked.

    Two years later I was sacked for an obscenity-laced front page article claiming that World War III had begun.

    The more gentle the hoax, the less trouble one gets into, I suppose. The more scurrilous, the higher the risk to one’s career.

    So be careful out there.

    –Still sacked in Louisville, Kentucky, US.

    PS. They used to run the speghetti harvest story every year in Ann Arbor, Michigan. LOL.

  4. 4 Tom D Ford
    September 5, 2009 at 03:17


    And it is also irresponsible for the media to participate in a con like they did with the Bush administration con about WMDs in Iraq and the alleged need to start a war against Iraq. Even Cheney has admitted that he lied about Iraq being connected to 911.

    And Rupert Murdochs’ False News (Fox News) is wrong to continually con Conservatives.

    A couple decades ago the US had a “Truth In Advertising Law” but the Conservatives got rid of it because they depend so much on their lies and propaganda to keep their base in line.

    But ultimately it is the responsibility of people to learn and use Critical Thinking skills so that they can tell when Conservatives are lying to them. It is true that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.

  5. 5 Nathan Xu- Adelaide Australia
    September 5, 2009 at 03:25

    I think media owns high level of legal and moral responsibilities to members of public. Journalist may not be considered as a professional, but ones job may create bigger difference to lawyer, doctors and accountant. A small mistake from a journalist can misrepresent the fact and mislead great majority of public, new conflict could start. Journalist must exercise extra caution prior publishing a story that might cause conflict.

    September 5, 2009 at 06:11

    Love the Onion, I trust it more than anything from Media Baron Rupert Murdoch garbage rags.

  7. 7 Jim Newman
    September 5, 2009 at 06:16

    Hello again
    Another strange question!
    The media (news agencies) are conned partly because they haven’t enough journalists on the ground and partly because they have an agenda.
    The biggest media con in history, I should think, was the coverage of the Gaza massacre where the reporters were herded into a compound, far from the action, and fed whatever the zionists chose to feed them.
    Usually it’s the media – in the hands of profiteers and corporations- who con the public.

  8. September 5, 2009 at 13:39

    Fabricated photos are nothing new. I suppose its possible to predict torture in war by looking into an intellectual, crystal ball.

  9. 9 James Wentworth
    September 5, 2009 at 14:31

    Absolutely not. We rely on the media to inform us reliably and jokes such as these are dangerous.

  10. 10 Dennis Junior
    September 5, 2009 at 14:51


    To answer the questions, and, I will be reading the reasons later…

    =Harmless fun or a joke that hurts people ?=

    I think in most situation it’s a harmless fun, but, in most cases it is going to hurt someone emotional health….

    =Dennis Junior=

  11. 11 Steve in Boston
    September 5, 2009 at 15:30

    It happens so infrequently that it’s hardly an issue. The real question is: “is it responsible for the media to con the public?” because that happens every day.

    Articles with headlines that stretch and bend the truth. Articles that twist and spin a minor incident to blow it up out of proportion. Articles that tell only one side of the story until the very last paragraph. Articles that express indignation about one party’s actions and ignore the same actions when done by someone else.

    I’ve become very jaded about what I read in the newspapers and online. Any headline that contains the word “may” always turns out to be a waste of time, as in “Scientists Say Asteroid May Strike Earth!” (story goes on to say we may get struck sometime in the next billion years). This used to be limited to tabloids, but now goes on in the mainstream press.

    Well, this is really a different topic, so I’ll stop here for now.

  12. 12 Tom K in Mpls
    September 6, 2009 at 02:36

    Let’s see, nothing is perfect. Not checking or hoaxing. Not all examples were hoaxes either. I guess all I can say is ‘it’s life, deal with it’.

  13. 13 scmehta
    September 6, 2009 at 08:33

    The media should be more responsible to not to con the public. Certain things, which may be funny for some, could cause grave hurt to many others.

  14. 14 Dennis Junior
    September 6, 2009 at 14:44

    I think that in most cases, the Media gets ahold of a news story in the Breaking News field; And, they don’t allowed time to vetted it out….

    =Dennis Junior=

  15. 15 Uzair
    September 6, 2009 at 23:10

    yes, it is. the media is responsible for a lot of hype too. there should be a court that punishes these kind of companies and people. unless there are strict punishments, nothing is going to happen

  16. 16 saad, Baluchistan
    September 7, 2009 at 06:35

    Media should not stream any news without investigating it, as doing so could potentially affect the crediability of the media outlet. All news stories should me based on facts, it would certainly make the news more interesting.

  17. 17 Nathan Xu in Adelaide Australia
    September 7, 2009 at 08:10

    I think media owns high level of legal and moral responsibilities to members of public. Journalist may not be considered as a professional, but ones job may create bigger difference to lawyer, doctors and accountant. A small mistake from a journalist can misrepresent the fact and mislead great majority of public, new conflict could start. Journalist must exercise extra caution prior publishing a story that might cause conflict.

  18. 18 Dennis Junior
    September 7, 2009 at 14:43

    Well technically, it is the responsibility of the media to vetted the story before airing it via platform…E.G. Internet, Television, Radio and others….

    =Dennis Junior=

  19. 19 Marshall M.C.
    September 7, 2009 at 15:45

    What goes around … comes around, or so I’m told.

  20. 20 T
    September 7, 2009 at 15:59

    Since the MSM is corporate, they just don’t do their jobs. The CIA for years had reporters working for them in various parts of the Stateside MSM. Now, all day coverage of Paris Hilton getting out of jail is far more important than Afghanistan, Sibel Edmonds and other actual news.

    If they can’t be bothered to do their job, they deserve to be conned.

  21. 21 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
    September 7, 2009 at 17:44

    Those people who did & post this photo have no sense of humanity at all course.If u want to kills someone,just shoot/slaughter and that is all,without abusing them on media like that.I did have a cruel face when i saw this picture.Shame on participants of such a crime!

  22. 22 T
    September 8, 2009 at 02:08

    You could reverse the question. Consider how long the MSM has been trying to con their audience that they’re doing their job. We no longer have correspondents and anchor people. Now they’re “news stars” who’s salaries, private life and more show up in the tabloids.

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