Editor: Columnist pranked by ‘Breaking Bad’ plot ‘treats all letters as sincere’

Winnipeg Free Press advice columnist Miss Lonelyhearts was fooled by a letter that attributed plot points from “Breaking Bad” to a reader called “Stressed and Confused.”

In an email to Poynter that he also sent to The Huffington Post, Free Press Editor Paul Samyn said: “Readers write to Miss Lonelyhearts because she is widely seen as offering expert advice on relationships – not for her knowledge about pop culture or television (they write to her colleague Brad Oswald for that).”

He continues:

In this particular case, Miss L took the writer at face value and offered advice she thought best suited their problem — advice we are hearing her readers also thought was wise.

In other words, Miss Lonelyhearts was not in on any joke. She treats all letters as sincere requests for help.

It seems to me that all the best advice columnists – from Dear Abby (http://snopes.com/humor/mediagoofs/dearabby.asp ) to Miss Prudence (http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/salon-slate-advice-columns-get-same-fake-letter_b113424) – are occasionally targeted by fake-letter pranksters.

Maybe the advice Miss Lonelyhearts gave “Stressed and Confused” would have been of value to Skyler White. Maybe her advice will be of value to someone in real life whose partner is dying, or who is concerned their partner is up to no good; these problems are universal, even if this particular letter is a prank.

Indeed, Miss Lonelyheart’s advice to “Stressed” included telling her “You have to get tough now” and “It’s time to confess to friends and family exactly what your desperate situation is, financially and otherwise,” which tracks well with Skyler White’s story arc on the series.

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