Tuesday, 1 July 2008

What a hoax

On Monday, all the papers went to town about a former Nazi being arrested, rather dramatically, on the Goa-Karnataka border. Johann Bach, who reportedly managed a concentration camp, was hunted down by Berlin-based German chancellor's core office (GCC) and Indian intelligence agencies. The information seems to have come from a Goa-based organisation called Perus Narkp, which is said to be the intelligence wing of the GCC. One paper even had a map detailing Bach's various places of stay - Argentina, Bulgaria etc etc.

But the next day only Indian Express reported the Karnataka police as saying that they didn't know anything about it and it could well be a media hoax http://www.indianexpress.com/story/329584.html.

Strangely enough, DNA carried the first story about Bach's so-called arrest the day after everyone else did and when questions were already being raised about it.

The hoax was carried out by a Goan media blog - www.penpricks.blogspot.com. Go to the site and read all about how it was done. Absolutely brilliant! And hilarious, but what a tragedy for the media, to think that everyone swallowed this.

This is lazy journalism at its worst. The trend of relying only on press releases for stories has worried a lot of us who came into the profession 20-25 years back. Shouldn't what Indian Express did the day the story broke been done the day the press release landed in every newspaper office? And shouldn't all newspapers have done this checking (late though it was) that Express did? Or did Indian Express do it after realising that it had been, well, had? Uncomfortable questions for which there will be no answers, unfortunately.

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