Saturday, November 24, 2012

USAT | Paper falls for hoax Walton press release

[Updated at 12:22 a.m. ET Nov. 24.] USA Today has now published a rewritten story, with a note at the top indicating an earlier version had quoted material from a fictitious website. At least one other Gannett paper, the Detroit Free Press, also carried the original USAT account, but later published a corrected version.

My original post: In a Black Friday shopping news story, USA Today has picked up what turns out to be a fake press release quoting Walmart heiress Alice Walton assailing the company for treating its workers poorly.

The release appears on a website meant to look like that of the Arkansas art museum Walton founded and leads. But the Los Angeles Times and other media are now reporting the site is fake.

"As a Walton," the paper quotes the daughter of founder Sam Walton writing, "I cannot stomach the thought of our employees working for poverty wages, without sufficient health care, on a permanent part-time basis, or under threat of harassment, retaliation, or termination for organizing in their workplace. The workers of Walmart deserve better."

When I first read the USAT story, I suspected something was amiss; Alice Walton is known for supporting politically conservative causes, so she'd be an unlikely ally of organized labor.

It's unclear who established the fake site. But the hoax comes on a day when a group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union organized scores of protests outside Walmart stores to protest working conditions in the retail giant.

I assume the paper will post a rewrite soon.


  1. It's surprising this fake press release got as far as it did.

    On Wednesday morning -- two days ago -- Walton's museum was already warning that a hoax was in the works.

  2. I suspect the original version of the USAT story will keep popping up on other Gannett websites, including (as I post this) in this story at The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La.

  3. In fact, a quick search turns up the story at other Gannett papers including those in Ithaca, N.Y.; Tallahassee; Wausau and other Wisconsin sites; and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

    I expect they'll all catch up with the corrected version later today.

  4. Jim, three words -- path e tic.

    Welcome to the World of Gannettoidism. Get it first, get it wrong, get it corrected after you've made a fool of yourself.

    Simply, this week's dumbest mistake.

    Will any heads roll?

  5. Also Cincinnati.

  6. And Shreveport. Sigh.

  7. Are there no editors with any common sense left? Most of the U.S. knows the second generation of Waltons love their precious money far too much to give a hoot about the common folk.

  8. Major embarrasment here. But usa today covered black friday like it was a road race. Instead of smart stories, breathless ancedote ad naseum. Not much strategic thinking, as usual.

  9. With each passing day, I become more and more relieved I was laid off before it got THIS bad. I'm seriously considering removing all references to Gannett in my resume.

    Oh and btw, I am employed. So pbbbbt to you, Gannett.

  10. 3:27, if that is the case, what about the Walton son who was a combat Army pilot in Vietnam?

    And all the money the Walton family has given to K-12?

    Facts. They take work.

    No one is being forced to buy at Walmart. That is as opposed to the "voluntary" IRS system.

  11. 7:16, yes there are some altruistic things here and there from the family, but the path the company has taken since Sam died speaks volumes to most people.

  12. Odd. Mr. Obama's best-buddy at WaPo disagrees with you.

  13. Usa Today simply needs some smarter, hands-on editors. A huge weakness, despite all the senior management promotions that fail to address widespread, systemic operational deficiencies.

  14. 3:41, how did this happen?

    -- the hoaxers knew to launch at holiday time (hello, Susan Rice), when news staffs are at their lowest.

    -- on the desk: the least-experienced and most-beaten down.

    -- senior mgt -- gone-ski. Remember Princess Diana's fatal car accident on a holiday weekend, and NBC News couldn't find Tom Brokaw for 18 hours?

    -- so much tension, about all the screw-ups, and senior mgt gone-ski, the desk let it fly. And then, KA-BOOM!!!

    Sad, predictable, and typical Gannettoid. There's no leadership there, that can fix this kind of stupid.

  15. Jim, be sure to send Ms. Gracia a bill for $5,000, for all the good advice here, that she is fwd'ing around.


  16. One more thing about Walmart and Sam Walton: Sam was a vet, as was Big Al.

    Sam also closed his stores on Sunday -- yeah, things are different now that WM is in Yankee-ville. For more in "Fortune" --

  17. Aint gonna happen. Kramer amd Callaway are proving to be video and snippet oriented, and theyve put lazy, incompetent fools in charge. Dont want to name names. jimbo will just remove the,mbut everyone with half a brain knows who they are and what a farce the operation is becoming.

  18. You want to strip the seasoned journalists out of journalism? Well, this is what you get. Too many smart people -- the real gatekeepers -- have left USAT, or worse, were forced out. Instead of blending talents and experience levels, USAT leaders chose to go after salaries and settle petty/personal disputes via layoffs and buyouts, which led to additional departures of other good folks who were sick and tired of feeling threatened for simply doing their jobs well.

  19. 12:54. All true. The sad thing is Kramer and Callaway could have reversed this trend. Instead, with this ill-conceived, thoughtless round of newsroom management promotions, they've just lost the rest of the newsrrom.

    It is clear that neither spent much time checking out the background and reputations of the many who they just promoted. These people, by and large, are not respected by lower tier editors or reporters. They were the root cause of many festering long term problems, and giving them more power and higher responsibilty just sealed the downfall of a publication that could have been a contender.

    We needed decisive, experienced leadership in key positions throughout all of the newsroomsand platforms.We got recycled wannabees who aren't respected, aren't hard workers and aren't particularly well liked.

    Please tell me how any of this crew advances the ball, how line editors' jobs get easier or how this increases or enhances content. I really would like to know.

  20. Usa Today got duped on another fake story today, a purported Google deal. Do people forget that they should be calling subkects and companies for a commnet, or are editors too busy to remember Journalism 101?

    Twice in three days. Chet, Teeiwen, Callaway, get YOUR FUCKING HEADS IN THE GAME.

  21. Kramer and Callaway are the new Bad News Bears.

  22. These were not rookies who were duped at Usa Today. They are beaten downl though, like many hard working veterans who dont have time for ass kissing snd brown nosing like so many around here, both young snd old.


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