Hoaxes are a dime a dozen on the Internet.
BuzzFeed UK weekend writer Robyn Wilder unfortunately got fooled by one over the weekend. The story involved an Irish plumber who dug a secret tunnel from his bedroom, where he slept with his wife, to a nearby pub 800 feet away. His reasoning was that his wife had a terrible snoring problem. See the story on TyroneTribulations.com, a site known for being the English version of The Onion, and on PracticallyViral.com. The “about” section for Tyrone Tribulations reads: “News from amongst the bushes. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed.”
It is unclear at this point where BuzzFeed first found the story.
What happened next is a little fishy.
As of Saturday, the story disappeared, but with no explanation. When you plugged Patsy Kerr (the plumber) and BuzzFeed and Robyn Wilder into Google, you got the link. But the link led to this:
Wilder did not respond to an email request for comment. So we decided to go to the big cheese, editor-in-chief Ben Smith (not to be confused for The Daily Caller‘s new fall intern with the same name). As fate would have it, Smith was “off-the-grid” this weekend and did not reply (unusual for Ben as he typically does when he’s around). An automated mail directed me to contact Anita Badejo in his absence.
“I’ll be out of the office and largely off the grid until Monday, September 29. If you’ve got an urgent news tip or other pressing BuzzFeed-related issue, please forward it to Anita Badejo (firstname.lastname@example.org), and she’ll make sure it gets where it’s going quickly.”
I sought comment from Badejo. But alas, she was also quasi off-the-grid this weekend and also did not reply.
“Hi there, I’m traveling the afternoon of Friday, September 26th through Monday, September 29th. In case of an urgent matter, please text or call me at 870-405-3954. Otherwise, I’ll get back to you once I’ve returned. Best, Anita”
BuzzFeed Executive Editor of News Shani Hilton replied to The Mirror on Sunday saying, “This post was removed when questions about its accuracy were raised, reviewed, and reinstated with an editor’s note.” See that here, dated Sunday at 12:17 p.m., but please note, this posting no longer existed Saturday. At the top of the story, a line reads: “This post has been updated. This story is a hoax.” Then down below the byline is another, more formal correction.
So why was the story erased?
According to BuzzFeed the problem was the time difference between London and the U.S. In my experience, adding a correction doesn’t mean you have to erase an entire story. It means you leave the story and add the correction.
Chalk this up as another BuzzFeed mystery.
I never did understand why Benny Johnson, who now works for National Review, was fired for plagiarism, but some of his coworkers, who had many, many stories removed from the site because they didn’t meet the site’s editorial standards, were allowed to remain.