Satire site RockCitytimes published a phony story claiming that food writer Kevin Shalin lapsed into a coma because he ate 413 biscuits. The UK Daily Mirror not only was hoaxed by the satire site, but wrote about the alleged coma without any attribution or credit for photos, information or quotes.
But, the Mirror wasn’t alone in ending up with egg, and a bit of flour, on its face.
Since iMediaEthics’ earlier report on the Mirror’s credibility pratfall, we’ve discovered several other outlets including the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Globe and Mail, the Examiner and gossip blogger Perez Hilton were tricked by the satire story.
The Globe and Mail was in a ‘Rush to Post’
The Globe and Mail’s website published a June 24 story about the biscuits coma story. That story was later updated to reflect that the story is a hoax and to add an Editor’s Note at the bottom of the post to admit the Globe and Mail was duped. The Editor’s Note read:
“Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to reveal that it is a hoax.”
The Globe and Mail’s public editor Sylvia Stead offered the back story on what happened in a blog post about the error. Noting that the blog is supposed to be “fun, water cooler chatter,” Stead reminded that the blog “also needs to be checked and reported.”
According to Stead’s post, the Globe and Mail’s blogger had tried to verify the story by contacting the RockCitytimes but “filed the post before hearing” back. Once, the blogger did, ” the story was briefly pulled, then rewritten and reposted to show that it was a joke,” Stead wrote.
“The Globe did the right thing by both correcting the article and acknowledging an error was made,” according to Stead. “Nonetheless, there needed to be greater vigilance, especially when it sounded pretty far-fetched.”
But, Stead said the error was made because of a “rush to post without proper reporting.”
The Examiner doesn’t attribute info
The Examiner fell for the hoax with a June 24 story about Shalin’s alleged coma. In an “update” later on, the Examiner admitted that the story was a hoax. The Examiner’s writer explained:
“I had first heard the story on ‘Morons in the News,’ a segment on a radio show I listen to. I researched the article and found the story on many news sites.
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“The friend of Shalin’s who wrote the original article and Shalin himself called the article ‘satire.’ I call it a hoax. The word ‘satire’ doesn’t fit this lie at all.”
Outside of being hoaxed, the Examiner’s story very closely resembles the RockCitytimes‘ version. The Examiner didn’t attribute any information or quotes, and the RockCitytimes‘ story is simply re-written.
iMediaEthics has written to the Examiner asking what its standards are for attribution and will update with any information.
Daily Mail, Sun and Scottish Sun Hoaxed, Delete Stories
The Daily Mail deleted its story, “Food fan left in a coma after eating 413 biscuits that gave him a ‘butter overdose’ and made his brain seize.” The story’s link now goes to a page saying the page “does not exist or is no longer available.”
The Sun and Scottish Sun published a story, “Man’s coma after biscuit at record bid,” but both have been deleted. Those story links re-direct to the sites’ homepages or error pages.
Perez Hilton picked up the story too, but as of June 27 hasn’t acknowledged the story is a hoax.
iMediaEthics has written to the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Examiner seeking transparent corrections. We’ll update with any responses.
UPDATE: 7/2/2013 8:40 PM EST: MailOnline Managing Editor Rhiannon Macdonald told iMediaEthics by email more about this story:
“This story was supplied to MailOnline by a reputable freelance correspondent and published in good faith, in common with at least one other British national newspaper.
“It was ‘live’ for about half an hour before it was brought to our attention that there were factual inaccuracies at which point we removed it from the website.”