Tuesday, October 20

Being Punked: CNBC, Fox, Reuters

Yesterday, Fox, CNBC as well as the Washington Post (which deleted its report) and The New York Times via Reuters, all went forward with a news release stating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had reversed its position on climate change.

The fraudulent news release, issued by The Yes Men, was part of an elaborate hoax to draw attention to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's environmental position. The hoax included a fake press conference that was disrupted when real representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed up.


While The Yes Men claim to be activists known for posing as corporate executives in order to reveal how corporate greed negatively influences public policy, they have also used the opportunity to plug their documentary film, The Yes Men Fix the World, which opens at the Avalon Theater in NW Washington this Friday, Oct. 23. According to their site, they collaborated with BeyondTalk.net and DC Climate Action Factory, a semi-autonomous group sponsored by Avaaz.org.

Since, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued a statement that it intends to ask "law enforcement authorities to investigate this event." However, the statement smartly seems to stop short of pressing for legal action or a civil suit.

The post-hoax reviews are mostly positive. The San Francisco Chronicle lamented that the release was not real. Grist called it brilliant. Bloomberg reported the facts. And The Hill pointed out how various organizations might have been keener on recognizing the release was a hoax.

While hoaxes are hard to condone, this one certainly reinforces a weakness in modern reporting. The acceleration of communication continues to undermine reliable information and the public is increasingly fickle in which side it might take. The Balloon Boy hoax was billed as pathetic while The Yes Men are made media heroes, at least for a day.

2 comments:

Bonnie Parrish-Kell on 10/21/09, 8:18 PM said...

It's why, as a communications professional and private citizen, I'm very concerned about journalism morphing into infotainment and the decline of objective investigative reporting.

Back to the topic on hand: if the vast majority of companies are struggling to get a grasp on social networking, I seriously doubt they are prepared to deal quickly and persuasively with hoaxes. It's one more thing executives can have nightmares over!

Rich on 10/22/09, 10:12 AM said...

Bonnie,

Unmanaged messages tend to manage companies, and news organizations are not exempt to that fact. We're drifting toward a perception-based reality; I have high hopes that we'll swing back to the middle after things get out of hand ... unless someone swings us too far toward a controlled, oppressive communication track.

Best,
Rich

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