Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Can't you take a joke?

So, as is traditional for this time of year, the news is full today of questionable stories, some obviously ludicrous, others less so. In particular, a clip of the penguin story on BBC breakfast this morning had me totally taken in. Looking at it now, it seems much less plausible, but the clip that was shown, combined with the early hour left the story with a sheen of believability. I realised my mistake later on (cue red face), luckily before I'd excitedly told anyone of the news.

Clearly, most of us are on our guard once we realise the date, and scrutinize each item for holes and plausibility. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Take the fake 'British style' story in the guardian. With less high profile names involved (a commission rather than the prime minister and a consultant rather than France's first lady), and the story starts to actually become believable.

Not that I'm suggesting that there are deliberate hoaxes slipped into our papers on a daily basis, but the media is certainly not the most-reputedly-honest profession in the world. There are cases all the time of figures and quotes being taken out of context, statistics being misused, and mountains made out of molehills. And yet we only really apply our internal 'bullshit-filters' properly on one day a year. Perhaps if we treated each news story like a potential hoax, we'd be taken in less often by the enticing headline, and look more carefully at the story underneath.

On a not-entirely-dissimilar, but not-really-connected note, this report on a gruesome beach discovery contains a quote from a "local female fish worker":Is there really any point in having that quote in the report. The person being interviewed clearly has no better idea than us what is going on, and it tells us nothing we didn't already learn in the article. I'm genuinely interested if there is any reason anyone can think of why such a quote would be included.

1 comment:

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

Pointless quotes and annoying subheadings which only break up the flow of the article are two of BBCs favourite things. Maybe having a quote is a way of trying to prove it's not an april fools (although that would be a great joke).

I don't like the media much, but tend to believe stuff from relatively reputable sources like the BBC, but really that's still a bit naive.
WIth regard to April fooliness, I forget what day it is so get dragged into things then realise afterwards.