A prank played by an Irish student who laid a trap for lazy journalists on Wikipedia — and caught some big prey around the world — proves again that journalists should check, double-check and check again all sources — especially sources on …
Research published in Nature,
one of the world’s most respected peer-reviewed journals, suggests that
Wikipedia rivals traditional encyclopedia Britannica for accuracy. But
there are still solid reasons academia continues to ban Wikipedia as a
formal source — and a prank played by an Irish student proves that
journalists should also beware.
Reported the Irish Times,
“A WIKIPEDIA hoax by a 22-year-old Dublin student resulted in a fake
quote being published in newspaper obituaries around the world.” The
student invented a quote and posted it on Wikipedia’s entry for Maurice
Jarre just after the French composer’s death. The fictional quote was
picked up by some unsuspecting journalists and appeared in obituaries
in the Guardian, the London Independent, on the BBC Music Magazine
website and in Indian and Australian newspapers, reported the Irish
The prank was reportedly conducted by Shane Fitzgerald, a undergraduate
studying sociology and economics at University College Dublin, “as an
experiment when doing research on globalisation,” said the Irish Times.
“He wanted to show how journalists use the internet as a primary source
and how people are connected especially through the internet, he said.”
“What others might see as an act of vandalism, Fitzgerald calls research,” wrote Guardian reader’s editor
Siobhain Butterworth, archly. “It’s worrying that the misinformation
only came to light because the perpetrator of the deception emailed
publishers to let them know what he’d done,” she added.
“My aim was to show that an undergraduate university student in Ireland
can influence what newspapers are doing around the world and also that
the reliance of newspapers on the internet can lead to some faults,”
Butterworth said Fitzgerald told her. She added, “Consider the job done
In the Irish Times on May 7 Fitzgerald explained in his own
words how he “lay the trap for my unsuspecting prey, the journalists.”
His title, predictably, was, “Lazy journalism exposed by online hoax.”
Disclosure: All of the above information was collected from Internet sources. Trust at your own risk.