Ohio paper corrects fake engagement announcement

On December 14, the Sentinel-Tribune in Bowling Green, Ohio published an engagement announcement that had been submitted by the expectant groom. He emailed the details and picture, and the paper placed this free notice:

Congrats to the happy couple! Well, no. The next day the paper published this correction:

As the correction notes, the woman identified as the bride-to-be had no part in the announcement, and she isn't engaged to Parks, though she has met him and the photo is real.

So how did the announcement end up in the paper? I spoke with Karen Cota, the paper's lifestyles editor, to get the background. (I saw the notice and correction on Megan McMorris's Facebook profile after a reader sent along a link.)

"That afternoon I get a call from the female [in the announcement],"  Cota said. "She's like, 'OMG he’s stalking me and this is the latest thing he's done.' "

Cota said the woman sounded concerned.

"She was just aghast and unsure what she should do," Cota said. "I think I probably said … 'You need to call the police,' and she said, 'Thank you, I will this afternoon.' I haven't heard back anything from her."

After the call, Cota took the notice off the website and a correction ran in the next day's paper.

The paper's policy is to publish engagement notices free of charge as long as they're submitted at least one month ahead of the wedding. Cota said most notices are submitted by women, but it's not uncommon for a man to do it, as in this case. She also said legitimate announcements have included casual shots like the one featured in the man's submission.

Cota has been at the paper since 1980 and to her recollection this is only the second time someone has submitted a fake engagement announcement. (The other incident involved the daughter of the mayor of a small town; the mayor called to politely say there was no engagement.)

"It’s a cautionary tale," Cota said. "...I am being a little more careful. The next time I got an email here from a guy and the photo was not professional, I emailed back and said, 'Please have your fiancé contact me,' and she did. We chatted, and I was reassured it was legit."

  • Craig Silverman

    Craig Silverman (craig@craigsilverman.ca) is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification.


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