What does Fake News do when confronted with their own fake news? Well, they fake it, and by doing so descend from fake news to something lower. I know not what that may be called, maybe deep-fake-news or worse-than-fake, perhaps vandalised-news? Who knows? Maybe just ‘New Zealand Herald‘.
Because when the absurdity of that formerly august journal’s ridiculous headline last week “Jacinda Ardern most popular PM in a century” was pointed out to them through these very pages it set the Herald‘s egg-on-face scrapers into action, scurrying to deep dark corners to scrub the stupid headline and bogus claim from the story, hoping nobody noticed, then they just continued on — as if nothing had ever happened, nothing to see here. Wasn’t us, we didn’t do it, honest.
All Granny needed to do was issue a correction, amend or update the story and note the change of headline. Perhaps. ‘An earlier version of this story carried the headline ‘Ardern most popular PM in a century’; that claim was incorrect. The article has been changed to reflect the update. The error is regretted’. That’s what an honest, professional outfit would do. Sadly the NZ Herald is neither. Nobody expected them to say ‘Conservative outfit we despise made us look stupid’, nobody.
The headline was designed to be sensational; aren’t they all? That’s not a sin, of course not, but it sure did its work: the NZ Herald story was re-published world-wide with the fib repeated in Forbes, Reuters, the Guardian, Newscorp, numerous aggregators and even ‘The Old Grey Lady’ herself:
Stuff’s Steve Elers followed up, calling them out on the story, specifically, in his column of Saturday last: “News turns fake when facts give way to untruths, hyperbole.”
Yet even that ‘untruths’ burn didn’t motivate Granny into owning up to the clandestine changes, thus the lie continues on and on.The NZ Herald, by refusing to come clean, made fools of all those who reproduced the piece, and demeaned those whose effort, in times long gone by, earned the outlet the status of ‘trusted’:
While I see an inept, incompetent, unprofessional editor and a shabby amateur attempt to wallpaper over a ridiculous mistake, journalism lecturer Mr Elers sees something more deliberate, asking not ‘how’, but ‘why’:
“I would go so far to say that fake news is a real threat to the democracy of our country. In this case, the question needs to be asked: Why was Ardern promoted as the “most popular prime minister in a century” when she clearly wasn’t?”
Good question. Be careful out there, especially in what you read.
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