How Do Big News Outlets Get Fooled By Fake Animal Videos?

Mar 4, 2013

Most people probably don't care that a cute animal video they laugh at on "YouTube" is fake.

But shouldn't professional news organizations be more picky about what they put on the air as news?

Recently, "Fox News", "Good Morning America," and "NBC Nightly News" (which has since pulled the video from its website) all aired an amazing video of a little pig rescuing a baby goat stuck in a petting zoo pond.

What's really amazing about the story is none of these news organizations checked it out enough to learn that the video was faked by some people at Comedy Central.

The New York Times broke the story that the video was faked, leading NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams to make an on-air retraction.

However, Williams pulled his punches a bit by saying that the network said when they first broadcast the pig rescuing goat video that they didn't know if it was real or not.

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" says it's hard to believe that a major news network wouldn't do the basic checking on a video like this before putting it on the air. 

Especially, she says, because it was so easy to spot as a fake.

"I looked at this video for five about minutes and concluded it was a fake. There were some huge red flags. One is there's no context for this other than a really simple little paragraph that says petting zoo. But it doesn't tell you where. It doesn't tell you when. But the biggest red flag is that the user who posted this video to YouTube created his account the day before. And it's the only video that he's ever posted.  Most of the fake videos that are posted are posted under similar circumstances. So my question to NBC was, 'Why didn't you try and find out if it was real?'"

Indeed, because the obvious question is, could the network air a video of more importance without doing the proper checking?

"One would hope that if the content was more significant that they would put more of their journalistic resources on the story," said McBride.

So why didn't ABC, Fox and NBC put their journalistic resources to check out this cute animal video?

"I think a lot of newsrooms are under pressure to ride this wave of information saturation," McBride explained. "So a video goes popular, it gets viral and newsrooms want to get in on that wave because they feel it makes them seem relevant. I'm not sure it does, though."