Chat Room Rumors and Media Hoaxes 2



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Chat Room Rumors and Media Hoaxes 2

The media can never deny coverage to a good spectacle. No matter how ridiculous, absurd, insane or illogical something is, if it achieves a certain identity as a spectacle, the media has to deal with it. They have no choice. They’re hamstrung by their own needs, to the extent that they’re like a puppet in the face of such events.”


Mark Pauline
By Catherine Gourley

Excerpted from Media Wizards


Media hoaxes are like echoes; they keep repeating. The person relaying the story swears it is true, having heard it from a “friend of a friend” who read it on the Internet or heard it on the radio. The story is passed on, either through word of mouth or through the media. Hundreds of hoaxes are zipping along the information superhighway, in particular. Each reported story that later proves to be false, however, damages the media’s credibility for reporting information accurately. Two recent examples include:

-a 1990s NBC Nightly New brief reported that some brands of kitty litter are radioactive. Not true. The story was a misread quote from another source about a single cat in Berkeley, California, that had somehow swallowed a dose of Iodine 131, a radioactive substance.


-a Valdez, Alaska, newspaper reported that a bald eagle has swooped down into a gas station and “snatched” a “Chihuahua-like dog.” The woman-owner was distraught; her husband cheered. Not true. The story had appeared many times elsewhere with different breeds of dogs.


Instructions: Select one of the statements below and use the Internet to discover whether the statement is true or false. Be prepared to share your results (web pages that prove or disprove) with the class.


  1. Edgar Allan Poe faked news stories when he worked as a reporter for the New York Sun.

  2. A new company has developed a new sport - indoor ice fishing.

  3. Communities are organizing to reduce street crime by providing guns to homeless people to protect themselves.

  4. The Marlboro Man died of lung cancer.

  5. An amazing bio-technology experiment is now underway – the first male pregnancy.

  6. You can tell when some important military action is going to take place by counting the number of orders for pizza delivered to the Pentagon.

  7. The Blair Witch Project was marketed in chat rooms by people paid by the film company to promote the film.



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