Journalists Beware of False Stories & Sources!

Imagine a youth soccer league where there is no ball. Instead the kids have to use their imagination when they dribble, pass and score. Well this is what a Midlake, Ontario soccer league decided to do. By removing the ball from the sport, the league was able to take away all the negative effects of competition. While the ball-less play could be a challenge for coaches, all of the youth could picture themselves being stellar players on the field. What a confidence boost!

I have to admit (embarrassingly) that I fell for the above bogus story about Midlake’s soccer league. The tale was presented by This is That, which is a CBC Radio news satire show.

I wasn’t the only one who was hoodwinked by This is That. So were a stream of others who shared their disgust for the ball-less soccer league on message boards and social media. Some news sources were even fooled, including OpposingViews.com (who later added to their article, the Editor’s note: “The show is satire, we got Punk’d”); and The Washington Times who seemed to use OpposingViews.com as a source(their Editor’s Note read: “The following is a story based on satire originally created by OpposingViews.com). Here are some other examples where media has reported false or misinformed stories:

LAPD & Martin Jetpacks

One of the examples in CRACKED’s April 2012 article “5 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled the Media,” had to do with a 2010 report that the Los Angeles Police Department would be shelling out big bucks to purchase 10,000 Martin Jetpacks (valued at $100,000 a piece). The devices to be worn by police, paramedics and firefighters could fly 63 mph and get as high as 8,000 feet in the air. Fox News’ Fox & Friends reportedly “broke the story” but within the hour, once it was discovered the story was false, the hosts reported that the LAPD in fact would not be purchasing the jetpacks.

Morgan Jones/Dylan Davies

Walking off Cliff
In Poynter’s article “The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013,” Craig Silverman deemed the 60 Minutes report about the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya as the “Error of the Year.”Apparently the core source for the report was a man who called himself Morgan Jones, who was later revealed to be Dylan Davies. “…he lied to the show about what he did and saw, thereby making a core piece of evidence in the ‘60 Minutes’ counter-narrative false and undercutting the entire segment,” described Poynter’s Silverman. “Problem two: it only took days for other news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, to reveal significant flaws with the story, and with Davies.” 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan issued an apology saying the TV news magazine was misled during the vetting process and by Jones/Davies, but admitting that they had made a mistake.

False Pilot Names

This mistake cost at least three producers their jobs, according to SFGate’s Matier & Ross. In July 2013, KTVU Channel 2 falsely reported the names of the pilots aboard Asiana Flight 214 which crashed at San Francisco International Airport. KTVU says the names of the pilots were confirmed to them by the National Transportation Safety Board. The false names Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow were read out loud by the anchor before she or the station realized the mistake or how they sounded!

These examples serve as a reminder of the importance for journalists to effectively verify information and their sources. You might be tempted to be the first to break the story. But especially in this digital age of mass communications, if you are the first to break a false story, the repercussions can be enormous!

Meet the Author

Michelle - Contributing Editor

Michelle Brunet is a freelance writer who contributes to numerous print and online publications, including JournalismDegree.com. She holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Studies/Biology and a B.Ed. Prior to writing, Michelle spent time teaching (in Canada and South Korea), volunteering on an organic farm in Ontario, camp counseling in Hong Kong, and a range of other short term gigs, from waitressing at a resort to separating recyclables on a conveyor belt. She loves meeting new people and is constantly fascinated by their unique stories.

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