MSNBC Duped By Blog Parody Site

What does a major news organization do on a big story when it looks for a lively quote?

Reporters will interview people, or, in this day and age, do an internet search. And then you can strike GOLD: that great QUOTE on a website that fits a story perfectly.

But there are danger signs on the cyberspace highway.

That’s because there are parody sites…and some of them look like REAL websites of the rich, famous and infamous. And some of them are so silly and laugh-out loud outrageous, snarky and downright dumb that they seem like they MUST be the real thing.

MSNBC found that out recently, when it quoted a GREAT QUOTE on the Michael Vick case by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Only it turned out not to be a quote by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Here’s the part as quoted by MSNBC, in reference to the Michael Vick case:

“If the police caught Brett Favre (a white quarterback for the Green Bay Packers) running a dolphin-fighting ring out of his pool, where dolphins with spears attached to their foreheads fought each other, would they bust him? Of course not,” Sharpton wrote Tuesday on his personal blog .

We can’t give you the graphic since work is being done on this site and our photo/image sizer is not operating. But CLICK HERE to view the page and the MSNBC correction (be sure to scroll down from the dolphin photos).

How did MSNBC explain it?

By running a correction saying the quoted Sharpton site was a “hoax.

WRONG. Newsgroper is a supremely delicious parody site that anyone except someone who believes in the Easter Bunny will conclude is a parody — perfectly done. It’s sort of like a fake Huffington Post.

But rather than admit “we put that on the site without really checking the website source as a whole — sorry!” or “we made a mistake in not looking at the post a bit more carefully but mistakes do happen!” MSNBC’s website writer called it a “hoax” which implies Newsgroper set up to trick people.

Newsgroper is set up to trick people as much as Mad Magazine is set up to trick people. Its a treasure chest of parody that anyone who takes the time to look at will realize is just that…

And there is the problem:

In the rush for that golden quote, reporters over the years have made mistakes. A misquote. Going to a source who isn’t really the source he/she says he/she is.

This problem is compounded in these days of Internet reporting where rather than talk to or look at a news source, much reporting — on weblogs as well as on websites — is done on a “we trust you!” basis. Bloggers don’t re-report and reconfirm news stories they quote; they assume the stories were reported correctly the first time.

In this case, MSNBC’s web reporter found a great, lively quote (those of us with news backgrounds can attest to the excitement we all feel when we find that “This is great stuff!!!” quote) and used it.

But the reporter didn’t quite check out the site. So the CYA correction on the piece calls the site a “hoax.”

One of Newsgroper’s editors, in an email to TMV, noted:

I wonder what finally tipped off their crack investigative journalism unit:

1. The words “fake parody blogs” in the title bar of every page of our site
2. Our logo
3. Al Sharpton blogging on the same site as Lindsay Lohan, George Bush
and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
4. Our about page
5. Al Sharpton referring to himself in his bio as a “Emancipation
Proclamation enthusiast”

Is it a valid “hoax”? Check it out for yourself by reading Newsgropers’ blogs “by”

Al Sharpton
Bill Clinton
Ron Paul
Rudy Giuliani
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Fred Thompson
Hillary Clinton
Vladmir Putin


Or parody?

Actually, these hilarious parodies aren’t as funny as what the real people would say seriously…

This is Gawker’s take on it.

  • Lynx

    From the Sharpton “blog” on Vicks:

    Am I excusing Mr. Vick’s actions and recasting his horrific cruelty as an issue of race, poverty and crime endemic to marginalized black populations, thrust upon us by the dominant white discourse? Some questions are best left unanswered … but yes, there’s a strong likelihood I am doing that.

    Did they spend even a whole sixty seconds on that site I wonder? Hell, on the sidebar there are links to the “blogs” of other people, with little bio-facts next to them. On George Bush’s the last bullet says “Overcame impoverished upbringing”.

    Ah well, the only thing better than a good parody is seeing some idiot take the parody seriously.

  • Dave Schuler

    Joe, was this carried only online or was it on MSNBC television, too? It may demonstrate more than anything else that MSNBC’s online presence is an amateur operation the network doesn’t take particularly seriously rather than a gaffe by MSNBC per se.

  • skippy

    i, for one, agree with msnbc. i am so tired of those comedians on saturay nite nbc tricking me into believing that it’s really dick cheney making those funny faces. and i hate finding out that george lucas was lying to me about all those bots and ewoks and darth mal guys. and i plan on suing the next guy i see impersonating santa claus, because it’s obviously a “truth in adverstising” suit just begging to be filed.

  • Sam

    Lol wow, Newsgroper is really a great site. I’ve never heard of it which makes surprises me as I do consider myself a bit of a pop culture whore.