April 1, 2016

Brian Ries, the real-time news editor at Mashable, tweeted some savvy advice Thursday for journalists facing an April Fools’ Day full of pranks, hoaxes and real stuff that seems totally made up.

We revisit this situation every year when brands, people and news organizations try to have a little fun but often end up pissing people off. April Fools’ Day is, at the very least, a time to slow way down before reporting and sharing on social media.

This year, we have a little help. Mashable’s #April1TruthSquad is on the lookout for fakery around the world. The project, which is native to Twitter, started earlier today in Australia, has moved through Singapore, the United Kingdom and is now searching for hoaxes in the U.S. The squad will wrap things up with a Twitter moment at day’s end on the West Coast.

Mashable’s audience is hyperdigital, young and connected, Ries said. So on Thursday, staffers came up with the idea to collect the jokes and hoaxes that play out on Twitter, where much of Mashable’s readers are. They considered launching a standalone account, as they did in November with a series of memorials for victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. But Mashable has several Twitter accounts already that mirror its verticals, so instead of creating something new, they decided to stick with the hashtag and let finds flow into it from there.

The account has unearthed prime examples of deceit today, including National Geographic’s decision to stop publishing nude photos of animals and Pornhub’s rebranding as Cornhub, (“hot corn videos”). But Ries thinks today’s a good day for journalists to sit out the business of pranking.

“If you present yourself 364 days of the year as a serious journalist, you’re going to take a hit with your trust,” he said.

While Mashable is spending the day pointing out trickery, it isn’t planning any April Fools’ Day shenanigans itself, Ries said.

At least not as far as he knows.

“But you never know, this is kind of a funny place,” he said. “I could be in the middle of a trick right now.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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