Media Spy apologized for and unpublished a December 11 story after it published a fake interview with an actor accused of child sexual assault. The Australian media news outlet and its reporter Andrew Jaffrey each issued statements about the hoax because of which Media Spy published quotes and an interview with “someone impersonating” actor Robert Hughes.
As Jaffrey explained, “two separate sources” told him Hughes “was preparing to return to Australia” and one gave him a phone number for Hughes. Hughes, who was featured in the TV show Hey Dad, was extradited to Australia two days after the Media Spy article was published. He was quickly “charged with 11 offences against five alleged victims,” the News.com.au and ABCs The World Today reported.
Jaffrey then “conducted a brief interview with him” and published a story that, based on its now-dead hyperlink, appeared to have been headlined “Just a Tickle Hey Dad Star Robert Hughes Speaks.” But the next day when he called that number again for a follow-up the person said to him:
“You media people believe anything. How does it feel when you get pranked?”
Jaffrey commented that his story “should have been more carefully verified” and Media Spy called it an “unintentional error, which was made as the result of an honest mistake.” iMediaEthics has written to Media Spy asking:
- Both Media Spy and Jaffrey said the article wasn’t properly “verified.” What steps should have been taken that were not?
- How will “staff involved in the publication…be counselled to ensure that such a mistake does not occur again?”
- Did Media Spy ever hear from Hughes or his representatives about this article?
- Does Media Spy know if the source who provided the number for the fake Hughes was in on the prank? Will or did Media Spy name the source of the bad information?
We will update with any response.