Have you seen this? It’s been making the rounds today.
At first, it looks like a surreal juxtaposition — the kind I’ve been writing about lately (here and here). That looks nothing like the Washington Post you’ll find at the Newseum today. Most folks passing it around are claiming it’s an earlier edition.
No, it’s not an earlier edition. It’s a fake.
A pretty funny one. But a fake nonetheless. One that a lot of people today have assumed was real.
When I grumbled about this on Twitter tonight…
…a loyal Detroit News staffer replied:
That post is on our politics blog which is run by non-staff members. Doesn’t make it any better though.
It certainly doesn’t.
Back to the original fake page. I’m not calling it a “hoax” because I’m not sure it was intended to fool anyone. It was intended as a joke. I suspect the creator is stunned at how far this thing spread.
I first saw it this morning when a friend posted it to my Facebook wall, tagging me in it so I’d see it. I spotted the fake right away and declined to blog it. As the day went on, however, more and more folks shared the picture and tried to draw my attention to it. When I found another Facebook friend sharing it and saying it was “from Charles Apple,” I finally dove in and removed my name from the tags.
What should be your first clue: There is neither a cutline nor a credit line beneath the four-column art of the president. The Post never leaves out cutlines or credit lines. It might run what is essentially a photoillustration on A1. But it won’t leave out the obligatory text.
The second clue: The photo is a year old.
The third clue is the deck hed at the upper right. I don’t think I’ve seen a Washington Post page with an all-caps deck like that. That typography just looks all-wrong to me.
I managed to track down who I presume is the originator of the page. I don’t have the ability to send the guy a message, so I won’t name him here. It was there that I found my fourth clue, however: The guy posted that image around 9 p.m. EST Saturday night.
The fifth clue is the most damning, however. In a comment he added to his image this morning, the creator writes…
Full disclosure: I was inspired by this image.
…and he links to this old faux newspaper page from National Lampoon:
The creator adds:
I thought I’d own up before [names of two of his Facebook friends] bust me.
Yeah, so he built the thing as a joke. No harm done, right?
Sure, no harm done. As long as folks don’t go crazy passing the thing around via social media.
The lessons here?
1. Don’t believe everything you see online. Especially if it’s not from a trusted source.
2. Be careful what you pass around. You and I might know it’s a joke. But there are folks out there who just don’t get it. Think about how often you’ve seen folks throw a rod reacting to a story that turns out to be from the Onion.
3. If you do pass it around, make sure you put the image — or the quote or whatever — into context.
4. Be careful about what you let your Facebook friends tag you with. People can see that tag and perhaps think you stand behind the image or post.
5. If you’re aÂ professional media outlet — you know, like a daily newspaper — make goddamned sure you check it out before you post it on your web site or put it into print.
6. If you’re a professional media outlet and you depend on non-staffers to write material that then gets published — or posted to your web site — then you’re responsible for that material.
If that content turns out to be questionable, it’s your credibility at stake. You ain’t gonna dodge blame by playing the “oh, he’s a citizen journalist” card.
Hopefully, we’ll all learn something from this.