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Media fooled by ‘celebrity sperm’ hoax
Falling for satirical news is nothing new but this time, the company behind it has a valid message to send...
October 22, 2012 2:42 by Muhammad Aldalou
News satire has been around almost as long as journalism itself, mainly intended for the purposes of entertainment and light reading. On the other hand, in this day and age, where information travels at the speed of light, the risks of publishing satirical articles have become more apparent.
Kipp is almost always amused at the thought of mainstream publications falling for outrageous satirical articles, sharing, discussing and writing about them. That said, we also realise that the ‘bar’ for what counts as ‘outrageous’ or ‘unbelievable’ has been raised beyond the imagination of previous generations.
Kipp doesn’t believe that stupidity is somehow the culprit behind falling for satirical news, nor that we have simply become increasingly gullible. It is merely the fact that online users are becoming more and more accustomed to getting their daily dose of outrageous news and are now subsequently less likely to ever be shocked by anything.
Years ago, announcing that someone would be cooking the world’s largest pancake may have immediately been recognised as a satirical piece. Now, we shrug and ask ‘so what’?
This brings us to the case of Famedaddy.com, a soon-to-be-launched paternity matching service in the UK, or so they thought. The company claimed to allegedly ‘scour the globe’ looking for celebrity sperm donors – be it from the entertainment, science or sports industry. They then go on to sell the donations to clients who are looking for the best of the best to father their children. Dan Richards, CEO of the company, appeared along with other team members in a promotional advertising video to talk about the company and its philosophy.
It was then that British television network, ITV, sniffed it out as a potentially good story and invited Dan Richards for a discussion on their talk show, This Morning. They had a serious and controversial back-and-forth with him about the ethics and implications of the company’s practice and its concept, while he stood by the principles and explained its appeal.
Publications in the mainstream media, including The Telegraph and The Sun in the UK, fell for it and ran with the story. Portals in the US, China and Australia followed suit and all appeared well and legit, except for a heightened sense of suspicion.
It was only then that 2LE Media, the company behind the flop of an organisation, announced that the entire story was a hoax and Dan Richards was nothing more than a professional actor hired as part of the sham.
“Fame Daddy is not a real organisation. In fact it’s entirely made up, and is part of a satirical comedy/entertainment programme that we are producing for Channel 4,” they said in an emailed statement.
Kipp could only imagine the embarrassment that ITV and other major publications faced after having published this seemingly credible yet controversial story, and having to issue apologies to the audience they mislead. But, it does have a silver lining for both journalists and the general public.
There have been many global rumours that turned out to be hoaxes. This habit of creating satirical news to either entertain or fool the public is not a new concept. Normally, it’s in good fun and nobody gets hurt. However, Kipp likes this particular one because the company actually had a message to send across. They had a motive and an important point to make. “There is a serious side to the programme in that it aims to highlight the sometimes detrimental impact of social media on our news culture.”