27 Feb 2018

Germany's best-selling newspaper falls for hoax

The German tabloid Bild ran a story about Russian interference in the coalition talks between Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. The article was based on a fake email exchange created by a satirical magazine.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Source: Meedia.de
Germany's best-selling newspaper falls for hoax - NewsMavens
German newspapers. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Stories of Russian interference to destabilize other countries' politics are abundant these days, and it becomes tempting to see a Russian hand pulling the strings of every single political transaction. 

However, journalists ought to resist giving in to this particular temptation before performing all the necessary research; Bild was already suspected of shoddy reporting, and their blunder will make it even harder for them to improve their reputation. 

Furthermore, such poor fact-checking practices give ammunition to political factions who deny the existence of Russian interference in Western politics. For example, the pro-Kremlin Russia Today extensively decried Bild's incompetence and gullibility, and we find ourselves forced to agree with them, for once...

fake news, media, Russia

Details from the story:

  • The staff of Titanic -- a satirical magazine -- created a series of emails between the head of a youth branch of the Social Democratic Party, Kevin Künhert, and a fictional Russian, Juri, who was offering to assist him in undermining the coalition.
  • Titanic said the hoax was deliberately shoddy -- for example, they used an outdated email domain.
  • Bild has already been caught spreading lies, although this particular care is going to be investigated by the German press council.
  • The Social Democrats are considering filing a complaint.
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