For close to an hour on Saturday, the website of The Capital Times of Madison, Wis., featured an article that was based on a hoax press release. After the paper realized its error, it pulled the story, published an explanation and expression of regret and tweeted about its error.
The fake release was created by “labor cartoonist” Mike Konopacki, who has in the past contributed cartoons to The Capital Times. The paper reported that “he sent the fake release to a staff member who then forwarded it to Associate Editor John Nichols, who wrote the story.” Also of note is the fact that the fake release included a quote from Konopacki.
Konopacki later told the paper the release was intended to be a prank, “but is apologetic about the confusion it created.”
I’d say that creating a fake press release and sending it to a contact at a paper you also occasionally contribute to is a damn good way to create confusion.
The paper said the story was written up quickly by Nichols, who then began making further inquiries. Jim Romenesko has a screen grab of the story written from the hoax release.
“Nichols wrote a short story based on the fake release and made follow-up calls to flesh out the story, but began to have doubts when he discovered that other sources had not heard about the release. He alerted editors to hold the story but it had already posted,” the paper explained.
Knopacki subsequently told Romenesko by email that the release was “meant to be a joke among friends but John took it seriously. I have since patched things up with the Capital Times. As someone who makes his living with parody and satire this seemed a natural. Our state is getting so repressive we have to do something.”
As for the story, The Capital Times said it “regrets its publication, even for a brief amount of time.”
Thanks to Tim Donovan for sharing the link.