Thursday, May 14, 2009

Irish student's hoax goes global

So you want you news up to the second you say? Well an Irish university student's class project showed that speed doesn't always equal solid reporting and caused a world-wide hoax in the process.

Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald slipped a made-up quote into the biography of French composer Maurice Jarre shortly after his death on March 28. Fitzgerald's phony quote was quite quote-worthy -
"One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear."

And that was the point, Fitzgerald wanted to see if any news agencies would pick up his incredible relevant quote, though he doubted any would since he didn't provide a citation along with it, just the quote. But that didn't stop several British cable news channels and the Guardian newspaper, among others, from including the faux-quote in their Jarre obituaries.

"I was really shocked at the results from the experiment," Fitzgerald said. He contacted the news agencies to tell them that they had unwittingly played a role in an experiment about how information flows on the internet, but added that if he hadn't he's sure that his quote would have gone down as something Jarre actually said.

An editorial about the obit in the Guardian said Fitzgerald's experiment showed the importance of checking sources - a little bit of Journalism 101 a few news agencies seemed to forget.
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