Our Skeptical Reporters

Yesterday’s Washington Post included this rather embarrassing correction:

The March 18 Names & Faces column included a quote that was attributed to Britney Spears via Allure magazine. The quote was actually a spoof, written by a Philadelphia Daily News reporter, of an Allure interview with Spears. The spoof was then picked up as an actual quote by MSNBC.com.

As Michelle Malkin points out, the Spears parody quote was widely reported as fact in the mainstream media.
This kind of thing happens more often than you might think. To take one more consequential example, during the first George Bush administration, a political opponent made a joke to the effect that before going to Latin America, Dan Quayle expressed regret that he hadn’t studied his Latin more diligently in high school, so he could communicate with the natives. This joke was retailed as fact in many newspapers and magazines, even though it was preposterous on its face. (I’m not aware that any news source ever retracted or corrected the false story, either.)
The Spears quote admittedly wasn’t quite this ridiculous, but still: wouldn’t you think that a reporter’s suspicion might be roused by these alleged statements by Spears?

Like omigod, I have to tell the maid to buy diapers and get the poolboy to walk the dog? Can’t I just make out with Kevin all the time? Being married sucks.

I’d like to think that we at Power Line wouldn’t reproduce a quote that ridiculous without wondering, at least, whether it is genuine, and possibly even doing a bit of fact-checking–which seems, in many quarters, to be a dying art.


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