April Fool, UK media style
The British news media (including the "serious" press and even the BBC!) are well known for their April Fool's Day pranks. As the New York Times noted last year, "the fake April 1 article is a fine British newspaper tradition, befitting a country where the news media revel in not taking themselves too seriously." This year was no exception, as the BBC points out. Among this year's gags:
- "The Guardian has Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin [pictured above], agreeing to release a version of one of the band's hits in an effort to persuade young people to vote Conservative. The song Talk has been renamed Talk to David, after Mr Martin's actress wife Gwyneth Paltrow met party leader David Cameron's other half Samantha at a yoga class.
- "The Daily Mirror shows an oak tree with 'abnormal growths' in the shape of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. But the exact location is being kept secret 'because of fears it could attract druids'.
- "On a sadder note, The Sun shows a lone jackass penguin strolling along the south bank of the Thames, having been accidentally taken from his Antarctic home by fishermen. Straining the credulity of even the most gullible reader, it quotes "one joker" as say the creature was 'popping into Savile Row to p-p-pick up his penguin suit for a black tie do'."
It is, of course, all complete rubbish! When the New York Times looked into the April Fool traditions of the British media last year, it reported on the sorts of gags that would never be allowed in its own pages. "British newspapers are less serious than American newspapers," said Jonathan Brown, a reporter at The Independent, which ran an article last April Fool's Day claiming that the Conservative Party was then pinning its hopes not on Chris Martin, but on a new candidate for Parliament: the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The Times noted some of best Brit press gags over the years, including a famous example from The Guardian, a newspaper that is high-brow yet famous for the numerous typographical errors that appear in its pages.
- In 1977, [The Guardian] printed a supplement extolling the virtues of San Serriffe, an obscure semicolon-shaped country in the Indian Ocean comprising two islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni; its leader was the authoritarian General Pica, and many readers, missing the printers' terminology that informed every aspect of the hoax, telephoned The Guardian to ask how they might get there.
The New York Times also mentioned what is perhaps Britain's most famous April Fool fake news story, which took place on--yes, you guessed it--the good old BBC, back in 1957. "That was when eight million viewers watched a BBC documentary showing a family in Ticino, Switzerland, harvesting spaghetti by carefully plucking cooked strands from a tree and laying them to dry in the sun." Apparently, according to the authoritative voice of the BBC's Jonathan Dimbleby, 'it was a good year for spaghetti, . . . because of the mild weather and the success of the Swiss spaghetti weevil eradication program. The BBC was deluged with calls'."