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Slate gets duped

Slate.com has posted an acknowledgement that it was recently "duped" by a writer posing as "the North American head of a European auto manufacturer." Apparently Slate staffers discovered their mistake when readers observed that searches on both Google and Nexis produced no results for a "Robert Klingler" in the automobile industry, and forwarded their observations to Slate.

It's just a little odd that they did such little work checking out their source (who apparently tricked them with an email that appeared to originate from the company he claimed to work for, and which asked that they respond to a different, personal address). Is it really news to anyone that you have to check your sources on this ol' In-tar-net thang? Heck, the whole name of this little old site here is a play on the uncertainty of things — as they say at the New Yorker: on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

Speaking of the New Yorker, though, I'm maybe a touch jealous that I didn't think of such a prank first. This one (aside from the significant fact that it was fictional, and published as true) is almost as good as the prank (scroll down half a page) an anonymous Suck.com writer pulled on that prestigious publication, submitting an essay with regular New Yorker columnist Bruce McCall's byline — and having it accepted, despite the fact that the same essay had been previously rejected, when submitted with the author's real name. I guess this is just another one of the ways in which the little guy is helping big journalism get better and better.

Of course, I'd like to think I'd own up to my would-be publisher about my trickery, and publish the prank here instead. I'll keep you posted.

March 6, 2002 1:04 AM

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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

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