April Fools' Joke Snares NYTimes

More egg on the Gray Lady's face

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The rise of Twitter has made rapid information-sharing and fact-checking so easy that many journalists spent April Fools' Day bemoaning the end of pranks. But one enterprising law blogger could celebrate a successful hoax when he hooked the Gray Lady herself.

Hoping to catch trick legal bloggers into running a fake scoop, New York lawyer Eric Turkewitz posted on his blog that had been appointed "official White House law blogger." While the legal blogs left the story alone, the New York Times' City Room picked up the story and reported it without outside confirmation. Hours later, the paper realized its mistake and scrubbed the report from its post, replacing it with a pseudo-retraction begging ignorance on the subject. A bemused Turkewitz admitted the hoax on April 2, expressing shock that the Times had bitten while bloggers stayed away.

The basic idea was this: A bunch of law bloggers would try to punk the political bloggers, whose reputation is to grab any old rumor and run with it. Fact checking hasn't always been the strong suit of this community.

But the political bloggers, to their collective credit, didn't bite, despite wide dissemination of the story. Not on the right or the left. Instead it was the vaunted New York Times that ran with the story without bothering to check its facts. The Times, of course, had no sense of humor about it when the angry phone call came to me a couple of hours later.

Journalists have been congratulating each other for their extensive coverage of health care. But the Times' latest snafu has done little to assuage concerns about the steady decline of the Gray Lady, though it did provide the blogosphere with some weekend fodder.

  • Fool Me Once...  Gawker's Maureen O'Connor giddily recounts the Times' mistake, adding a little snark along the way. "Turkewitz was pulling their leg," she smirks. "At least, they think he was pulling their leg, when they called to ask he dodged their fact-checking department's sledgehammer of truth."
  • NYTimes Shows its Age  At Newsbusters, a stern Lachlan Markay sees the incident as proof that old-school media entities that deride the blogosphere are becoming dangerously out of touch. "Maybe Old Media will take this faux pas into consideration the next time it derides "Drudge-driven journalism." Maybe. Regardless, this incident is a cautionary tale for everyone, MSM or otherwise."
  • Is This Your 'Memorable Gaffe'?  Giving the Gray Lady a taste of her own medicine, Mediaite's Jon Bershad mocks the Times by employing its rubric from a recent article entitled "The Rising Stars of Gossip."
THE NEW YORK TIMES: Newspaper, NYTimes.com

NOTABLE SCOOP: That time World War II ended.

MEMORABLE GAFFE: Yesterday, reported that Eric Turkewitz had been appointed the White House’s official law blogger — a juicy scoop, except that the story was a hoax.

  • Outclassed by WSJ  The Charleston Daily Mail's Don Serber compares the Times' response to Wall Street Journal's, which chose not to post the news after failing to get confirmation from the White House. "So the Wall Street Journal called to verify first," he muses. "Hmm. That reminds me of something I used to do around here. Some ism. Began with a J, as I recall."
  • Another Sign of Decline  Not everyone is amused by the Times' gaffe. "Why am I not surprised," fumes Left Coast Rebel, which launches a blistering attack on the Gray Lady.
Is it just me or is the New York Times actually getting more and more corrupt, less traditionally 'journalistic', a-politically incompetent and increasingly hostile to middle America? Essentially is the New York Times circling the drain at even a greater clip than they have in recent years?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.