A 22-year-old Irish sociology student managed to trap a good slice of the worldʼs media, including Australian outlets, by messing with a Wikipedia entry. The duper, Shane Fitzgerald, explains :
Just how reliant reporters are on the world wide web was the question that suddenly gave me the idea of carrying out an internet hoax. The global world is connected through the internet, and news reporters are relying on this resource more than ever. I wanted to prove that this was indeed the case, and show the potential dangers that arise.
His trap was simple. On March 30, he saw a report that French composer Maurice Jarre had died. He jumped into Wikipedia, and made up a fake quote for the composer: “One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack,” I wrote into the Wikipedia entry. “Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head and that only I can hear.” He notes:
While I expected online blogs and maybe some smaller papers to use the quote, I did not think it would have a major impact. I was wrong. Quality newspapers in England, India, America and as far away as Australia had my words in their reports of Jarreʼs death. I was shocked that highly respected newspapers would use material from Wikipedia without first sourcing and referencing it properly.
The Sydney Morning Herald today issued this apology: