Remember that video the Sun-Sentinel put up on its high-powered homepage for two days that purported to show Michael Jackson jumping out of a coroner's van after he was supposed to be dead?
Well, it was, of course, a hoax. But more than that, it was an experiment conducted by a German broadcast company to show how quickly misinformation can take hold on the internet. And the Sentinel, along with other newspapers in the Tribune Co. chain (Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times, we're looking at you), was one of the video's more mainstream purveyors.
"We wanted to show how easily users can be manipulated on the internet with hoax videos," spokesman Heike Schultz of Cologne-based RTL told the Associated Press. "Therefore, we created this video of Michael Jackson being alive, even though everybody knows by now that he is dead -- and the response was breathtaking."
The video spread on all kinds of sites, one of the more prominent being the Sentinel, which kept it up on its homepage for the better part of two days last week. On Thursday, the video was listed as the Sentinel's most-viewed item. Pulp opined then that the newspaper was only making people dumber with this Jackson video: "The Sentinel is supposed to be at least a semi-serious daily newspaper, and throwing in this kind of trash demeans it and its readers."
Though the video was seen by millions of people, it really didn't make it to many other mainstream newspaper websites (and certainly not homepages). But the Sentinel isn't solely to blame for spreading the trash. Its parent company helped lead it astray. The video was actually picked up at Tribune Co.'s flagship Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. To read more about the experiment, click here. And for old time's sake, here's the video, which was actually shot in Germany.