The media doesn't always have time for such time-consuming practices as "fact checking" and "thinking about this for a moment to work out if it sounds idiotic." News reporting is a fast-paced and hectic industry -- if you take 30 seconds longer than your competition to report on a story, then your readers will wonder what the hell they're doing reading your website instead of theirs.
The only way to avoid this, if you're a journalist, is to immediately scream every piece of news that seems vaguely plausible. Unsurprisingly, bullshit frequently slips through, like the news that ...
We have to admit, consumer technology is moving so fast that it's hard to know what not to believe when it comes to pre-release rumors -- Gizmodo could claim that the next iPhone will suck text messages right out of your brain and we'd have to at least consider it plausible. So when a Fox News New York affiliate heard that the iPhone 5 was going to come with a holographic keyboard and projector, they figured, "Sure, why not?"
The reports of the iPhone's hologram technology came complete with a video that showed lasers spewing out of the phone to manifest images onto thin air, like a tiny, more advanced R2-D2.
But Really ...
Don't bother whipping out your iPhone 5 and searching for the hologram button. The features that Fox excitedly announced would be included on the current generation of Apple's flagship device came from a fake video. It wasn't even a hoax meant to suck in gullible journalists -- it was just mocked up by an animation studio to show off their CGI chops.
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"Journalism means never having to say you're sorry. Or fact checking."
So how in the hell could reporters in one of the world's largest media markets be that hilariously wrong about a story that big? After all, it's not like it's that hard to find out what features will and won't be available on one of the biggest product launches of all time.
Well, it has to do with the fact that even though it's a New York media outlet, it's still a local news station, and they tend to suck at covering local news with any depth due to cuts in newsroom staff. So when a local news broadcast wants to do an easy story on the people lining up for the new phone, they probably just have an intern Google "iPhone 5" and grab the first clip they see. Quickly throw a sentence into the reporter's narration about what the video is showing, and bam! You've set the stage for some very confused and angry Genius Bar visits.
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"Right now it's just us at this desk. If you don't want your shattered scrotum joining in, give me the holophone."
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One way to slip a bullshit story into the mainstream is if it seems to fit a narrative we've already heard, such as how birth rates are falling in Western nations (often with the subtext that those evil Muslims will outbreed us).
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"What do you mean our charity is racist?"
So it made sense when, in the early 2000s, a bunch of news outlets started reporting on a study conducted by the World Health Organization that suggested that blond hair wasn't going to exist in the human population after 200 years. The reason had something to do with blond hair being a recessive gene that is being slowly usurped by the other hair colors. Due to this hostile genetic takeover, the last natural blond would be born in Finland sometime over the next two centuries. This would presumably be followed by a thousand years of darkness.
The original story was likely this BBC article, but it soon spread to ABC, CNN, and The Daily Mail.
Otherwise known as "the herpes of journalism."
But Really ...
Anyone who wanted to find more information about this scientific study would have a difficult time of it, because none of the articles that reported on it ever linked to the study or even named any of the "German scientists" who conducted it. On top of this, nobody gives any of those important science details like numbers, percentages, or statistics. Also, the World Health Organization, which supposedly conducted the study, had never heard of it, so there's that.
"Yeah, you guys know Ebola's a thing, right?"
In fact, nobody knows where this story came from. It can only be traced back to all these news sites suddenly reporting on it, as though the story somehow wrote itself in a spontaneous regurgitation of bad journalism. Genetics doesn't even work the way that the study supposedly describes, so blonds aren't actually going anywhere.
The "disappearing blond gene" affair just became an embarrassing example of how news agencies, in the scramble to report a story the moment they hear about it, just copy-paste each other's bullshit without so much as giving us the courtesy of a quick Google search to see if the events they're reporting on actually happened.
"Words are all the proof I need."
But hey, at least it doesn't look like they got it from a parody news site. Unlike ...
Ed Jones/Staff/Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
When your paper has a political agenda, your first job is to make sure that whatever you print fits the narrative. No matter how clown-fartingly stupid the story is, if it appears in what looks like a real publication and supports your point of view, publish that shit!
AFP / Getty
"Brad Pitt and Madonna agree: Kim Jong Un has the best fragrance!"
So, in late 2012, the Iranian news agency FARS excitedly reported on the results of a Gallup poll that revealed that the majority of rural white Americans would, if given the opportunity, vote for Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Barack Obama.
The reasons cited were that Ahmadinejad would "never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does" and that they respected the Iranian president because he didn't hide the fact that he was a Muslim.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"He's as crazy as I think the other guy is."
And that report apparently signaled the beginning of an American trend of fondness toward foreign dictators. Shortly afterward, The People's Daily, a Communist Party newspaper in China, ran a 55-page photo spread of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, proclaiming him the sexiest man alive. They cited an American news report for the story and quoted some rather flattering passages, such as "Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile."
But Really ...
Some of you already recognize that the American source both of these news agencies quoted while rushing to get on top of these incredible scoops was The Onion. For those of you most loyal to Cracked for your Internet comedy needs, you may not be aware that The Onion is the publication that basically defines the "fake newspaper" concept. But despite their cartoonishly outrageous headlines, regular people do get duped by it all the time. Sometimes, those people happen to write for major news organizations.
FARS News Agency
"Hey, we're just Iran. No one expects fact checking."
Once the comedy outfit received word about the error, The Onion's editor, Will Tracy, released a statement commending FARS' outstanding reportage and claiming that they had been working closely with the Middle Eastern bureau for years.