Media magic: Recycled stories float to the surface to ride a new wave

Today, a tipster sent me this story dated Jan 9, 2014: Student expelled for casting a spell |

Outrageous, right? Indeed. Great story! Except this EXACT story is from the year 2000. You can spot clues in the piece (which quotes the YEAR) even if you don’t remember the made-for-TV movie in 2006 about it.

This has been happening a lot lately. Old stories gain new life when one site (usually Reddit, which was so in this case as well) posts old news as new news. This happened with the Jenny McCarthy thing last week. And I can typically find it almost every week. Outrage is good for hits. For some odd reason, 2014 has started off chock full of bogus news – hoaxes, hype and old stories vomitted up again to stir a whole new audience into outrage (and garner clicks).

From Reddit, this bizarre story of a girl expelled for a spell in Oklahoma went to Godlike Productions, a popular outrage forum and then to various religious sites and other postboards and aggregates like Topix. All the while, there were clear indications in the comments that this was a 14 year old story, not news, but it still got passed on.

So, do local news media get their stories from Reddit? And do they do ZERO fact checking? Look at the recent Rick Dyer story. That hoax has been growing for a year and he was caught hoaxing back in 2008. The Melba Ketchum stuff was reported as new when it was old. But this one is particularly bad to be so well known but no one seemed to NOTICE.

It takes very little time to scope these out. Usually just reading the comments are getting clues from the story are enough but since I’ve started posting stories, I do tend to double check them more often. Always check the date and make sure they pass the sniff test.

I guess it’s just one of those things… a story will hit the Net and go off on its merry way again and again and again. Just like urban legends. The media seem stuck on keywords. They just post outrageous stories based on certain themes. There is no thought given to them at all. This is the REAL news story.

And look, another story from 1998:

Student Suspended For Hex | Student suspended for ‘hex’ Witchcraft: Southwestern High School disciplines a 15-year-old girl accused of casting a spell on another student. – Baltimore Sun.

Is there nothing new under the Sun?

  3 comments for “Media magic: Recycled stories float to the surface to ride a new wave

  1. Angela
    January 13, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Friend of mine shared this the other day and I mentioned that it happened in 1999 with the actual court case in 2000. (with a link of course). The following comment was a bit…aggravated at me for bringing that up. And yes, I have seen mainstream media fall for satire, outdated stories, and premature deaths. USA Today reported Tim Curry’s stroke as news in May of 2013 when it had actually happened in July of 2012. It seems people are just too concerned with being the first to get a story out without fact checking.

  2. January 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    What’s particularly frustrating about this hex story bubbling back up isn’t just that it’s old old news, but that nobody had a clue what came of it. Yes some girl got suspended from school pre-Y2K, and there was an ACLU law suit against the school for it, but what happened with the case?
    I had to dig to find a buried news blurb about the case being dismissed by the judge.
    Apparently the disappointing result isn’t nearly as attention-grabbing as the knee jerk reaction and pop-fury of the headline. In my mind, I heard the “sad trombone” playing as I read the article I’d dug up about the dismissal.

  3. Angela
    January 13, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Yes, I had to dig for it as well..I had remembered the case but didn’t remember ever really hearing how it turned out. The last thing I found was on the ACLU website that said the case was dismissed and that they planned to appeal. Never could find any more than that.

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