The journalist’s quick guide to surviving April Fools’ Day

March 31, 2015
Category: Newsletters

Little girl with hands covering her eyes

Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day, which means we’ll likely stay busy here covering two kinds of stories: News sites that were tricked by tricky tricksters and news sites that did the tricking.

Here are three quick tips on how to navigate the day. (And please let us know what you’re up to and what you’re seeing tomorrow!)

1. Slow down.

Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. People are out to mess with you, perhaps more than on other days. Here are some of Craig Silverman’s tips on debunking.

Related Training: Investigating the Internet: How to Sniff Out Scams

2. Do not trust college publications.

Don’t do it. This is their day.

3. Maybe don’t participate.

Pulling jokes on readers can backfire. Do not mess with your readers tomorrow. On April 3 of last year, Vincent Duffy wrote for the Radio Television Digital News Association about the perils the day provides for journalists.

Lots of fellow journalists pointed out that our most important commodity is our credibility, especially in an age when too many media outlets report first and fact-check later, and some political organizations and activists purposefully spread misinformation through social media. If we want to be trusted, we shouldn’t be in the game of fooling people.

OK sometimes it works, particularly if it’s from The Guardian. And last year’s trick from NPR was funny and made a pretty good point. They posted a story on Facebook with the headline “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?”

We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this “story.”

Lots of people left comments.

Related Training: Getting It Right: Accuracy and Verification in the Digital Age

As an alternative to messing with your readers, consider messing with your coworkers. Newsroom pranks are not limited to April 1.

WDRB 41 Louisville News

P.S. It’s April Fools’, according to the Associated Press Stylebook, not April Fools or April Fool’s.