The UK Sun falsely reported London Bridge might be torn down to build a “MARIJUANA mecca.”
Not that London Bridge. A London Bridge in Arizona, near Lake Havasu. The bridge was bought from the British government about fifty years ago, according to The Guardian.
The Sun’s June 16 article, “London Bridge IS Falling Down,” claimed the Arizona tourist attraction was going to be bulldozed “to build a centre for drug tourism,” called Hemped in Havasu.
“Had The Sun claimed the bridge housed aliens from another planet, we would not have been as aggressive in seeking a retraction. But their ‘bulldoze’ story was feasible enough for readers to actually believe it could be true,” Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) president/CEO Doug Traub said in a press release.
The newspaper didn’t list any source for the claims the bridge would be torn down or that it would become a drug business.
The town complained to the Sun‘s ombudsman and made the rounds in print, online and TV news stories to attempt to correct the record.
Traub told iMediaEthics the CVB didn’t complain to the Press Complaints Commission and commented further on the Sun’s article.
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“The article was largely fabricated and the publication was resistant to changing much of anything except the most damaging portions. Clearly, the British tabloid press will print anything for entertainment value as long as it will not result in civil penalties, or those penalties are outweighed by larger subscription and newsstand sales.”
In total, he said there were 14 fake claims in the article.
On June 30, the city sent out a press release, calling the bridge “iconic” and “Arizona’s number two tourist attraction.” It asked for a “front-page apology and retraction.” It also listed errors in the article, and noted that “Marijuana is illegal in Arizona.”
The Sun also published a correction July 21, according to a press release from the town. The correction stated:
“In an article ‘London Bridge IS Falling Down’ (16 June) we stated that the iconic bridge, now a tourist attraction in Arizona, was falling into disrepair and could soon be bulldozed. We also stated that there were plans to turn the area into a centre for drug tourism. We have been assured by Lake Havasu City that there are no plans to knock down the bridge or to build a centre for drug tourism. We regret any misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.
“A Lake Havasu spokesman also assures us there are plans to revitalise the English Village on the east side of the bridge and that they are committed to looking after the monument.”
In addition to the correction and unpublishing, the Havasu News-Herald reported that Sun ombudsman Philippa Kennedy said the Sun will have a reporter visit the city to report on it as some point in the future.
iMediaEthics has written to the Sun for more information.