It's almost an affront to the word "news" that the Rupert Murdoch-owned umbrella conglomerate that oversees media outlets like Fox News and the UK's The Sun is generically called News Corporation, since that term generally implies facts. Facts, however, have never been the specialty of either of those organizations, as The Sun's admission yesterday that it made up a preposterous front-page story about an Al-Qaeda threat on the set of a soap opera sadly underscores.
The Sun, of course, is not exactly known as a gleaming pillar of journalistic integrity. But neither is it exactly a rag-print tabloid of the TWO HEADED ELVIS BABY WINS HOT DOG-EATING CONTEST variety; though it has a well known reputation for sensationalism, the news it reports on is assumed to be actual news. It also happens to be the biggest-selling newspaper in the UK. And so it struck folks as a little incredible when on December 9 the paper ran, in giant typeface, the headline "AL-QAEDA CORRIE THREAT."
"Corrie" refers to the popular British soap opera Coronation Street, a filming of which the paper asserted Al-Qaeda was targeting. During the filming in question, Manchester police were spotted frisking people walking on and off the set -- the police department later explained that, since it was a live taping, the film crew had wanted to minimize disruptions.
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From the fact of the friskings taking place, though, The Sun apparently drew the conclusion that the set was being targeted by the popularly villainized terrorist group, and then went ahead and put that right there in the headline. The writer of the article, Guy Patrick, cited and "unnamed source" for that "information."
Today, the paper surprised exactly nobody by acknowledging, close to a month later, that the story was pretty much entirely made up. It ran this correction:
Further to our article about increased security at Coronation Street's studios for their live 50th anniversary episode... we would like to make clear that while cast and crew were subject to full body searches, there was no specific threat from Al-Qaeda as we reported. We apologise for the misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.
Excellently disingenuous use of the word "misunderstanding" there, Sun, and perhaps unintentionally apt -- the best-case scenario for the entire Murdoch empire might just be that it turns out to be one big, unfortunate misunderstanding.