Thursday, 6 April 2017

Time to end April fool news

Last Saturday saw the usual spate of 'April fool' spoof news stories - but I think it's time this practice stopped.

In the early days, these stories were delightful. I remember seeing a re-run of the Panorama spaghetti harvest film as a child (probably on its 10th anniversary) and loved it. At university, I read with glee the Guardian's superb San Seriffe feature with all the wonderful detail of this supposed travelling island nation. However, I'd say the news reporting world has changed in two ways that make the whole business not so funny - and when we get flooded with these stories, many of them lack the originality and sheer madness of these early attempts.

The first change is the rise of comedy news sources like The Onion and The Daily Mash. They churn out several such stories a day - we really don't need extra ones on April 1. And then there's the rise of post-truth, fake news reporting. And that brings it home that it's not acceptable for a proper news outlet to lie to us just because they think it's funny to do so. To take a trivial example, my favourite newspaper, the i, ran a story that Southern Rail was going to start standing-only carriages to pack more people in. I simply took that as fact - it wasn't silly enough to do its job. As it happened I saw the 'retraction' on the following Monday, but if I hadn't, it would have become fake news for me - and 'Bur we were just being funny, not lying' isn't a good enough reason for doing that to your audience.

So let's give it a miss next year. Please? Yes, fine, I don't mind the occasional, large scale extravaganza like the spaghetti harvest or San Seriffe. But stop with the barrage of silly little stories that could all too easily be true.

If you've never seen the spaghetti harvest, this mini-documentary shows the original material and fills in some of the context of it being put together. It's only 4 minutes and well worth enjoying:






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