Celeb hoaxes fool tabloids

2009-10-15 21:13

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London - A British filmmaker duped some of the country's top tabloid newspapers into printing fake stories about celebrities, including one about Amy Winehouse's beehive catching fire, he said on Thursday.

Chris Atkins and his team put in hoax calls to some of Britain's best known newsrooms, including that one girl band singer was a physics wizard, only to see the details printed - unchecked - in the press the next day.

Among the celebrity "sightings" they invented was a tale about how troubled British singer Winehouse had been playing music with friends when the fuse blew and set fire to her hair in its trademark beehive style.

The story appeared in two major tabloid papers, before being splashed across the internet, Atkins told the Guardian newspaper.

"We wanted to test how much truth there is in much of the celebrity stories that now completely dominate all areas of our news media," said the director, who details the team's two-year investigations in a new movie, Starsuckers.

Crazy tales

"And we specifically wanted to see how much journalists fact-checked their stories. So in order to do this, we made some stories up," he added.

"We made up a whole range of crazy tales of celebrity mishap and tried to see how easy it would be to get these into the tabloid press.

"On no account were any of the stories we sold and were printed fact-checked in any way. They could've been fact-checked and they would have shown to be the nonsense they were within minutes."

In another incident, one of Atkins' colleagues called a best-selling newspaper pretending to be the wife of a furniture removal man who said he had helped Sarah Harding of British girl band Girls Aloud to move house.

She detailed how the blonde singer had lots of books on quantum physics and a telescope at home, sparking headlines that "Sarah's a boffin" and prompting a flurry of stories across the world.

Atkins insisted that despite being offered money for the stories, his team was never paid for their work - although he recommended selling fake stories to the tabloids as an easy way to make a quick buck during the recession.
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