Journalists and the media want to get the news to us ASAP, and we appreciate that. But sometimes, in their haste to be the first to break the news, the media can get carried away. The common themes surrounding all journalistic codes of conduct include truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity and accountability.
Sounds like the reporters from Australia’s Channel Nine totally forgot the humanity part of the creed in the Rob Bogucki case. Yes, they rescued Bogucki who had been lost in the Great Sandy Desert for 40 days, but how they did it is subject to much debate.
Some say he should have been examined by medics on the spot before moving him at all but in their defense, they said he asked to be taken out of the bush. Others say the news crew was trying to get an exclusive by whisking him away for an interview. While we debate that, how about the local newspaper cameraman, Rob Duncan, who they kicked off the news chopper to make room for Bogucki.
So much for humanity.
They have been so desperate to report something that they fail to check facts. In early 2015, a group of scientists fooled scientific journals and the mainstream media by claiming eating chocolate can help you lose weight. Turns out it was all a big hoax, yet it was carried by magazines, websites and TV shows.
There have been numerous cases where the media has been accused of incorrect reporting, intentional manipulation, even downright lying. Makes you wonder what to really believe… Here are ten times media outlets were caught messing with the facts.
10. Big Screen Sunrise
False reporting is seen as the hallmark of the lazy reporter, someone who is unwilling to track down sources and confirm them. This type of reporting can be used to sway public opinion.
In 2014, the Daily Mail claimed that due to the smog in China, citizens can now only watch the sun rising on huge TV screens outdoors. In their words “smog has become so thick in Beijing the city’s natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge commercial TV screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises.” The story was found to be a fabrication, but as ludicrous as this was, the story had already been picked up and run by CBS, Time and Business Insider.
9. Color-Coded Religion
In 2006, Canada’s National Post announced that the Iranian government passed a law requiring Muslims to follow one national dress code, while non-Muslims wear other colors to show they are not. Right wing politicians quickly railed at the very idea of this perceived persecution. Jewish rabbis even wrote to the U.N. demanding immediate action be taken.
The entire story was found to be totally false and stemmed from a misinterpretation of an address by the Ayatollah. He simply asked fashion designers to create more Muslim-friendly designer clothes. When it was exposed as a lie and the journalist was contacted, he had this to say: “As much as being accurate is important, in the end it’s important to side with what’s right. What’s wrong is siding with the terrorists.”
8. Sick Journalism
Sometimes the motive behind certain news reports is unfathomable to anyone but the reporter. An example is the tragic 1991 fight between two schoolgirls, Diane Watson and Barbara Glover, which ended in tragedy when Watson died from a stab wound inflicted by Glover. She was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to jail.
Almost two years after, for unknown reasons, the Scottish Herald and Marie Claire Magazine ran stories claiming the dead girl was a bully. This attack on the dead girl’s name further deepened the depression her brother had been suffering since she died. The articles and attendant scrutiny disturbed him so much that he committed suicide. His body was found with clippings from both stories and a suicide note that read “Sorry mum and dad, but I just had to be with Diane.”
7. Photo Manipulation
It’s not just words that the media can twist to make readers feel a certain way. We acknowledge just how powerful images and pictures are, right? Who can forget how they felt when they saw the first pictures of the little girl running from burning napalm in ‘Nam?
In the June 1994 edition of Time Magazine, the mugshot of O.J Simpson used was intentionally darkened to look more sinister and menacing. The magazine claimed that there was “no racial implication intended, by Time or by the artist” and that they merely wanted to “smooth the merciless bright light, the stubble on Simpson’s face.” Since an untouched version of the same mugshot appeared in Newsweek, nobody bought their explanation.
6. Conscription for Gold
At one point during the Civil War, there was an AP report of an upcoming recruitment drive of up to 400,000 new soldiers. The report also claimed the President had asked the nation to embark on a day of “fasting and prayer.”
However, this address didn’t come from Lincoln or the Associated Press. Two reporters, Joseph Howard and Francis Mallison, decided to use the press to drive gold prices up.
How? By claiming a war was imminent, people would rush to stockpile gold and ammo, thus affecting gold prices. On the 17th, they made a large investment in gold. The next day, they ran the announcement. A few major papers fell for it, and the price of gold was driven up by large purchases. They quickly resold their investment and made a profit. They were eventually busted when the story reached the Capitol and an investigation was carried out.
5. The Dole Army
In 2002, a group of pranksters tricked the Australian media by claiming to be a gang called the Dole Army. They said they lived in the sewers of Australia, surviving on scavenging food and claiming state benefits. They claimed to recruit new members through their website and even had plans to overthrow the government.
A few weeks after the story was run in two major tabloids, the group came clean and admitted it was all a hoax. They wanted to show just how easy it is to fool the media. As the TV channels A Current Affair and Today Tonight already had a bias towards a certain demographic, it was easy for them to believe the story. They even paid them for the story.
4. No Self-Inflicted HIV
You can blame this on the printers, but in one terribly inaccurate report in 2013, Al-Jazeera reported that Greek citizens were self-injecting HIV to claim state benefits. Media outlets like the Daily Mail, Fox Business and Sky News picked up on the story and it blew up on social media. Rush Limbaugh ran with the story, calling Greece “the gay capital of the world.”
This erroneous report stemmed from an editing mistake in the WHO’s European report on HIV for that year. The initial numbers led to speculation which was later retracted, but by then the media had got hold of the report and splashed it on readers screens.
3. Naked Paintballing
Another example of media failing to double check facts led to free publicity for one business and an egg on the face for FOX, MSNBC, and even CNN. Yes, all of them were royally fooled when a Las Vegas company claimed to offer a chance to stalk “game” in the desert. The hunters were men armed with paintball guns and their “prey” were naked young women. The women would be dressed in only sneakers and would earn $1,000 but up to $2,500 if they escaped getting hit for the whole hour.
The ensuing outrage spanned across women’s groups, government agencies and the media. The so-called “Bambi hunts” turned out to be nothing but a ploy for cheap publicity for Michael Burdick, seller of adult videos.
2. Faking “Evidence”
Most of those taking journalistic liberties have been reporters on the beat desperate for a story. One would expect a higher moral standard from their bosses, right? Well, not really.
In 2004, the Daily Mirror claimed to have pictures of British soldiers torturing prisoners of war. This caused a global outcry as the news came on the heels of the Abu Ghraib incident. In one of the pictures, a soldier was pictured apparently peeing on a hooded prisoner.
The British Army wasn’t about to take such accusations lightly. Thorough investigation found that the pictures were staged by the paper for the shock factor. All fingers pointed at the then-editor, Piers Morgan, who refused to apologize and was subsequently fired.
1. Haitian Invasion
We’ve seen reports of journalists and the media embellishing the facts to make a news story, but this next entry is totally bonkers.
In 1966, CBS News was privy to information that Haiti was about to be invaded by a group of Haitian exiles. How did they know this? Because they were going to fund it. Yes, the media was going to start a war just so they could have exclusive rights to cover the invasion.
With the brutal regime of Jean Claude “Papa Doc” Duvalier in place, many Haitians fled their country. Plotting to overthrow the government, but lacking funds, they were offered $200,000 in exchange for giving the network exclusive rights to film the invasion. Though they bought weapons, interviewed the key players and even paid workers compensation, the war never happened.
Many regard it as an elaborate shakedown of the network.