The deputy editor of Motor Boat and Yachting has written an entertaining blog post on his quest to get to the story behind a press release announcing the sale of a £3 billion yacht to an unnamed Malaysian business man.
Stewart Campbell writes about his search for Stuart Hughes, who sent the release, which was picked up and run as a story by the Sun, Daily Mail, Metro, the Independent before being uncovered by Campbell as examples of churnalism.
It is worth reading the full post to get the full tale of the yacht, the Photoshopped image and what led Campbell to put out his first story: The £3 billion golden superyacht: real or fake? And a second, published a day later: £3 billion superyacht story confirmed as fake.
I’m proud to say that as the second story above went live, Motor Boat and Yachting was the only news source on the planet disputing Mr Hughes’ claims. Everyone had bought it – from UK nationals, to blogs, to foreign media taking the story as fact from the British papers (MSNBC, Toronto Sun, Ireland’s The Journal, Australia’s Daily Telegraph & news.com.au). It was big news in Malaysia, I understand – as it would be here if a Brit had dropped a few billion on a superyacht (Malaysia Star, Malaysian Insider). Abramovich’s massive Eclipse only cost a few hundred million, after all. Big, big news. But a complete fabrication. A couple of news outlets around the world picked up our story, reporting the reporting – the same practice that led to so much of the media printing falsehoods in the first place (Asia One, MSN Malaysia, Business Insider, Malaysian Insider). It was all too late, though – the genie was out of the bottle and to many people around the world, the established truth was that there was a Malaysian businessman out there who’d just picked up the keys to his new £3 billion, golden toy.
The story gets increasingly entertaining as Campbell receives another release from Hughes on the world’s most expensive house.
At a secret location in Switzerland, this house apparently contains 200,000kg – yes, 200 metric tons – of gold and platinum. This guy can apparently source more gold than most central banks – 0.18% of all the gold ever mined, to be exact, and that’s just for his yacht and house projects. The story didn’t hit the UK nationals, but did make its fair share of blogs and overseas papers (the Pakistan Times; Wall Street Journal, which is a reblog of a reblog).
So Campbell’s quest continues and though a boat and yachting specialist, he finds himself researching the story behind the house.
The full post on Campbell’s blog Cricket, and things that make me angry is at this link.
There’s some advice on how not to fall for hoax press releases here.