D'oh, a Deer  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Drop Cap
From AJR,   March 2002

D'oh, a Deer   

Media caught in headlights by Internet hoax

By Jill Rosen
Jill Rosen is AJR's assistant managing editor     


A few media organizations had the deer-in-the-headlights look recently after running with a quite stale--and quite untrue--story making the rounds on the Internet.

It all started when Fox News anchor Brit Hume reported the following in January: "It's deer season out in Ohio and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is trying to protect the animals by adorning them with bright orange vests.... PETA boasted it has succeeded in dressing more than 400 deer in the vests, but Guy Lockey, owner of a sporting goods store in Youngstown, countered by offering a reward to hunters who could bag vested deer and bring home the vests.... State officials are said to be worried that the whole vest competition could get someone shot."

Hume apologized the next day and retracted the story, but not before the Wall Street Journal and ESPN posted the juicy-sounding tidbit on their Web sites.

Soon after, Columbus Dispatch environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne penned a scathing article about the goof. Hawthorne reported that not only is there no Guy Lockey in Youngstown, it's not even deer season in Ohio. "You can just hear Hume and his producers chortling...'Can you believe these liberal wackos? Trying to get Bambi to wear a vest!' " Hawthorne wrote.

Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz slapped Hawthorne for ribbing Hume after he apologized. Hawthorne says he didn't know about the apology when he ran his story, but he thinks the apology makes the story funnier.

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