Story that went round world on a fool's errand
Wednesday 02 April 1997
Unsuspecting news agencies who enquired about The Independent's front- page exclusive - "Thatcher lined up to be Blair's ambassador in Washington" - were referred to the baroness herself. Unfortunately Associated Press (AP) did not make its own checks and disseminated it as far afield as Australia.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) picked up the AP report and put out a radio news bulletin. A warning from ABC's London correspondent came too late. Mark Tamhane, no stranger to Fleet Street spoofs, immediately warned his colleagues: "The British papers are renowned for pulling their readers legs on April Fool's Day."
And so they did. Pets take pictures which win prizes, if you believe everything you read in yesterday's Daily Mail. The paper printed an award- winning photograph of a gaping lion's jaw - "The most amazing picture you will ever see" - apparently taken by a chimpanzee, moments before death.
BBC Radio 4's Today programme ran two spoofs: an animal psychologist's ability to interpret 300 canine words and a story about the "substantially reduced" jumps on the Grand National course.
The Guardian began a series on constituencies with a look at one of Scotland's "least-known and least-predictable seats". Glenclyde North's Labour man, Hamish McHenry, woos voters with his guitar in a style known as Highland Bluegrass. The lyrics gave the game away: "We'll kill the bosses with our troops, If that goes down well with the focus groups."
Other stories designed to trip up the gullible yesterday included the launch of "dilutable water" and the introduction of driving tests for under-fives. A total meltdown at Madame Tussaud's following a new EU ruling and the development of an energy-packed miracle apple were also reported.
While the media were congratulating themselves on their ingenuity, a hand-written fax landed on newsdesks yesterday afternoon. "I hope you see the funny side," scribbled an apologetic Swampy. He had, he explained, no intention of stand- ing as a parliamentary candidate at the general election, as some newspapers, including The Independent, had reported. The eco-warrier's newsworthiness really knows no bounds.
Letters, page 17
- 3 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 4 George Galloway attacked on Notting Hill street by man 'shouting about the holocaust'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
George Galloway attacked on Notting Hill street by man 'shouting about the holocaust'
Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
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