TechCrunch writer on fake Uber story: 'People are dense, I guess'

TechCrunch published a piece by Ryan Lawler Sunday saying Uber would buy a fleet of driverless cars from Google. The piece carries the dateline July 25, 2023, but several outlets still reported the "news" as fact -- in part, perhaps, because TechCrunch isn't usually a parody site. Lawler documented some of the ripples from his story on Twitter over the weekend:


That Washington Post URL now returns a 404.

Reached by email, Lawler said CNN called him over the weekend to ask about the report, and he told the network it wasn't true. "I didn't write it to pull anyone's leg, honestly," he writes. "I thought I was pretty well couched with the hed and dateline, but people are dense, I guess."

Wonkblog honcho Ezra Klein tweeted this yesterday:


Forbes contributor Greg Satell wrote a grudging correction after he fell for the piece:

The source for this was TechCrunch, who while normally a reputable site, thought it would be funny to write the article as a joke. While Google has made a large investment in Uber, there has been no announcement of a reciprocal transaction.

One poster in a thread on Slashdot that originally took the TechCrunch post seriously said the Daily Mail rereported the "news" as well. Unfortunately, that URL, too, now returns a 404.

In what may be another example of a media outlet falling for parody, an article in the U.K. Independent appeared to take an Onion piece mocking CNN as actual reportage. The newspaper changed the wording of its introductory sentence, which used to read: "A piece in The Onion even described why CNN put Miley as their top story." It's now "A piece in The Onion even joked why CNN put Miley as their top story."

Here's a screenshot of the original:

(click to view bigger)

And finally, Elmore Leonard's family says media reports that Leonard's son Peter would finish his last book are overblown:

The Toronto Star piece linked in that Facebook post has a headline that gets ahead of what's actually in the story: Star reporter Victoria Ptashnick writes only that Peter Leonard told a BBC presenter “It’s been discussed among family members." That's a long way from a vow.

Related: Why Bloggers Fell for a Fake TechCrunch Story About Self-Driving Cars (Slate)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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