Paper brags it set up yuppie hoax

1999-06-08 04:00:00 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco weekly newspaper gleefully admits to fabricating a news event and tricking major media outlets, including The Examiner, into covering it.

SF Weekly[1] Editor John Mecklin[2] said he and his staff created a fake advertisement for a pro-yuppie rally that was to take place on Sunday afternoon, hoping that the media would take the bait and cover the nonexistent rally. The phony ad appeared in the Weekly’s pages like any other ad, prompting many to believe that the rally was legitimate.

The Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle[3] and several radio and television stations did attend the rally, which was supposedly to pit affluent yuppies against longtime Mission District residents who did not want them living in their neighborhood. About 200 people showed up to protest the “Stop the Hate” rally and its supposed yuppie sponsors.

But after those sponsors failed to materialize, The Examiner’s Monday editions covered the event under the headline “No yups, just nopes at rally in Mission: Was scheduled anti-hate gathering a complete put-on?”

Mecklin reveled in the prank, saying it proved that the media were lazy and would respond to any press release or advertisement without confirming facts.

“We have made up a political movement out of thin air, called a rally on its nonexistent behalf, called into being a large counterdemonstration (complete with a significant police presence), and created a minor media uproar,” Mecklin said in an editorial that ran on the Weekly’s Web site.

Reckless and irresponsible<

Others in the journalism industry criticized the prank as reckless and irresponsible journalism.

“The purpose of journalism is not to lie to people,” said Austin Long-Scott[4], the acting chair of the San Francisco State University[5] journalism department. “The purpose of journalism is to get as close to the truth as possible. . . . If (gentrification) is a big issue in San Francisco, and I think it is, you don’t trivialize it by using it as a prank.”

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