ABC Mistakes Onion Story for Real News. Hilarity Ensues!
August 27, 2000 1:39 PM   Subscribe

ABC Mistakes Onion Story for Real News. Hilarity Ensues!
Couldn't resist... the "dummy" story even vaguely resembles my "White House Staff Eats Its Young" headline...
Now, compare and contrast with the handling of John Stossel's bogus lab results, or CBS' Craig Kilborn "sniper" sniping, or the Bryant Gumble mumble, or any other recent major media screw-up...
posted by wendell (12 comments total)
I would have to say firing the guy might have been a little drastic. just my opinion.
posted by howa2396 at 3:47 PM on August 27, 2000

It's a coverup, man. The experimental ALGORE2000 replicant went berserk, and ABC had to hush it up.
posted by harmful at 6:50 PM on August 27, 2000

No, I think firing him was completely appropriate. Do you have any idea how vulnerable they are to a libel suit by Mr. Gore?

If he loses the election, all he has to do is prove the possibility of malice and he can sue their tails off. How much real damage is "losing the election for president of the US" worth? How much punitive damage?

The mind boggles.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:20 PM on August 27, 2000

Did any station actually report the story? I'd like to think that even the most ignorant of program managers would realize that something was amiss when that came over the wire.

What's really scary about this is that it proves just how reliant news services are on wire services. The 'news' is controlled by a handful of corporations.

It's a good thing we have MeFi around to provide us with fair and objective news coverage . . .
posted by aladfar at 8:20 PM on August 27, 2000

And, as if anyone needed proof about how a fake news release can affect the real world, here it is...
posted by delfuego at 9:22 PM on August 27, 2000

aladfar:"It's a good thing we have MeFi around to provide us with fair and objective news coverage "

all the news we link to in MeFi come from a hand full of sources.
posted by tamim at 5:58 AM on August 28, 2000

I happen to agree that firing was somewhat drastic. Everybody knows these sorts of things happen all the time ... e.g. dummied-up obituaries of famous people
posted by dhartung at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2000

*very* nice, Tamim.

I concur; firing him was over the top, if it actually happened. I propose to make my displeasure known to the station; the news department is at, th Managing News Editor is listed as, though it's not clear if he's the ME for the website or the entire department.

If you choose to write, note that this could *still* be a hoax that even Jim didn't catch; frame your comments roughly "there's a story spreading around the net that a freelancer was fired because... if so, I'd like to express my displeasure with thif; I feel it's an overreaction.

That's how I'm writing mine, at least; I'll let you know the results.
posted by baylink at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2000

first of all, wfaa was not involved in ANY way with what happened, and the email addresses above are not the proper contacts. the error was made by abc's news one which is the group that is responsible for preparing feeds for its affiliates. the centers are placed locally, with the southwest center housed in the wfaa building, but they are entirely separate entities. wfaa is not abc owned and operated, but owned by the a.h. belo corporation.

the wfaa reporter's name appeared in the story because if a story breaks locally, the reporter responsible gets credit for it. the employee in question was training another employee and entering "dummy" information into fields and since they were in the southwest office, he entered names and information that he would normally enter, namely wfaa staff and credits.

i've found newsblues to be entirely reputable and they do not post "fake" stories. plus, i've seen print-outs for news feeds and it looks authentic.

the employee in question absolutely should have been fired. everyone, EVERYONE that has worked in television news in any capacity knows to be very careful. i've seen anchors and reporters fired for "cussing" when they thought they were off air, font operators fired for accidentally popping up a "joke" font, etc. the station may not *want* to do it, but from a p.r. standpoint, they have no choice.

on a final note, any news director or producer worth their salt would DEFINITELY verify this story before airing it. the turn around time on a story like this would be about 20 minutes max before making national news. also, it would have appeared on the wire as one sentence blurbs before they would have received a video and sound information as was on that message. ex: ALERT!! gore kills child - efforting video.
posted by centrs at 5:59 PM on August 28, 2000

No, I think firing him was completely appropriate. Do you have any idea how vulnerable they are to a libel suit by Mr. Gore?

Yes -- they're not vulnerable at all. No reasonable person could believe the story was true, the story was never broadcast in any medium the public had access to, and the staffer was being thoughtless rather than malicious. Add to these things the fact that Gore is a public figure, and there's no chance in the world a libel suit could have been won. Sheesh. Crack a textbook before making claims like that.
posted by rcade at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2000

Wait a minute. What if this is a cover-up? Won't we all look foolish.
posted by dhartung at 9:45 AM on August 29, 2000

Excuse me; my apologies -- centrs is right; I misread it. The "our freelancer" comes from the ABC wire editor, not from a WFAA staffer. Glad I let my own letter settle a day. :-)
posted by baylink at 4:36 PM on August 29, 2000

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