A fake press release about General Mills led to several news reports based on the hoax, highlighting the speed of the news cycle and the importance of verifying information. The hoax has also prompted a law enforcement investigation.
Several stories written from information in the fake press release have since been retracted and removed from their sites.
The Street reported June 16 that Wall Street Journal and Reuters published stories based on the release. The AP wrote June 16 that Dow Jones Newswire and Fox Business News also reported on the fake release. A Google search also shows dead links to removed articles on the fake release published on Forbes.com and Nasdaq.
The release had three tip offs that it was fake, Comcast reported. The fake release had a New York dateline, but the company is in Minneapolis. The word “yogurt” is spelled “yoghurt.” And, the contact phone number listed is a New Zealand number.
General Mills and law enforcement are investigating who was behind it. The day after the fake release was published, General Mills issued a statement discrediting the June 15 release.
The AP reported that the release was removed from the news wire within minutes of being posted, but some news outlets already picked the story up.
MediaPost reported that General Mills ordinarily uses Business Wire not PR Newswire to circulate press releases.
Business Wire also was hoaxed June 19 when a fake news release slipped through its distribution system, The Wall Street Journal reported.
PR Newswire hasn’t publicly said yet if it will change internal procedures because of the incident, but BusinessWire has stopped accepting e-mail submissions, the WSJ wrote.
Disclosure: Art Science Research Laboratory, publisher of iMediaEthics, used PR Newswire to distribute its recent press releases.