Date: 10-08-09 21:23
-Media Hoaxes and Scandals-
<Jayson Blairís Journalistic Fabrications and Plagiarism (2003)>
Jayson Blair is a former American journalist who resigned from the New York Times in May 2003, after he was caught plagiarizing and fabricating elements of his stories.
On April 28, 2003, Blair received a call from Times national editor Jim Roberts, asking him about similarities between a story he had written two days earlier and one written by San Antonio Express-News reporter Macarena Hernandez on April 18. Hernandez had a summer internship at The Times years earlier, and had worked alongside Blair. She contacted The Times after details and quotes in Blair's story appeared exactly the same as in hers.
Blair's plagiarism of Hernandezís article was so flagrant that it led to further pressing by Times editors, who asked him to prove that he had, in fact, traveled to Texas and interviewed the woman in his article. After being unable to provide proof, Blair resigned from The Times on May 2, 2003. Following the resignation, a full investigation of all of Blairís articles began.
An internal report was commissioned by Times editors, with a committee consisting of 25 staffers and three outside journalists. The Committee discovered that 36 of the 73 national news stories Blair had written since October 2002 were suspect, ranging from fabrications to copying stories from other sources.
<The Demolition of the Great Wall (1899)>
In 1899 a faked story about the Great Wall of China appeared in several Denver newspapers. It said that the Chinese were going to tear the Great Wall down and build a road in its place, and that to complete this project they were taking bids from American firms.
The hoax began in 1899 with four Denver newspaper reporters, Al Stevens, Jack Tournay, John Lewis and Hal Wilshire, who represented the four Denver newspapers--the Post, the Republican, the Times and the Rocky Mountain News.
The four met by chance at Union Station where each had been waiting in hopes of spotting someone of prominence who could become a subject for a news story. Seeing no celebrities and frustrated with no story in sight and deadlines due, Stevens remarked, "I don't know what you guys are going to do, but I'm going to fake it. It won't hurt anybody ..." The other three men agreed to concoct a story.
The reporters then began running through countries such as Germany, Russia and Japan until one of the reporters suggested China. John Lewis grew excited and exclaimed, "That's it, the Great Wall of China! Must be 50 years since that old pile's been in the news. Let's build our story around it. Let's do the Chinese a real favor. Let's tear the old pile down!"
The four reporters concocted a story in which the Chinese planned to demolish the Great Wall, constructing a road in its place, and were taking bids from American companies for the project. Chicago engineer Frank C. Lewis was bidding for the job. The story described a group of engineers in a Denver stopover on their way to China.
Leaving the Oxford Bar, they went to the Windsor Hotel, signed four fictitious names to the register and told the desk clerk to say to anyone who asked that reporters had interviewed four men before they left for California.
The reporters swore they would stick to this story as fact as long as any of the others were still alive. The next day, all four major Denver newspapers, the Times, Post, Republican and Rocky Mountain News featured the fabricated tale on the front page. On the Times, as well as the other three papers, this was a typical headline:
GREAT CHINESE WALL DOOMED! PEKING SEEKS WORLD TRADE!
Although the Denver papers dropped the story after a few days, the story did not die. Two weeks after the Denver headlines, John Lewis had noticed a large Eastern U.S. newspaper had picked up the story, and included information not even in the original story. This newspaper included quotes from a Chinese mandarin confirming the story, with illustrations and comments about the tearing down of the wall. Eventually the story spread to newspapers all across the country and then into Europe. Years later, the last surviving reporter of the hoax, Hal Wilshire, confessed the secret.
<The Great Moon Hoax, New York Sun (1835)>
The Great Moon Hoax was a series of six articles that were published in the New York Sun beginning on August 25, 1835, about the supposed discovery of life on the Moon. The discoveries were falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, perhaps the best-known astronomer of his time. According to legend, the New York Sun's circulation increased dramatically because of the hoax and remained permanently greater than before, thereby establishing the New York Sun as a successful paper. However, the degree to which the hoax increased the paper's circulation has certainly been exaggerated in popular accounts of the event. It was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction.