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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Just kidding

I'm glad April Fool's Day came on a non-working day this year -- staying alert to the gags of the office clowns can be tiresome. I'm also glad newspapers don't print gag stories on April 1 as much as they once did. The Wabash Plain Dealer, where I started my career, ran a Page 1 hoax story every year that continued to an inside page; only on that "jump" page was it revealed that the story was fabricated -- April Fool! One year, the paper's hoax story was to the effect that the Navy was going to build a sub pen at Salamonie Reservoir. Most people, it turns out, don't bother to read the jumped part of Page 1 stories. The newspaper office was deluged with calls from readers wanting to know where and how they could apply for all the jobs the Navy operation would bring to Wabash County. They were naturally a little miffed when told they had been victimized by a gag story.

I have to admit, though, that the spaghetti hoax was a beaut:

Made on a budget of just £100, it told the tale of spaghetti harvesting in Switzerland and described how the seemingly bumper crop was at risk of late frosts, creating a disastrous situation for growers all over Europe.

The spoof documentary showed people in the Swiss Alps plucking strands of spaghetti from trees and laying it in the sun to dry. That it fooled so many was in part down to the fact that pasta, at the time, was deeply exotic in a nation reared on meat and two veg. Then there was the commentary provided in serious, hushed tones by that giant of broadcasting, Richard Dimbleby.

Considering the kind of shows on TV these days, how would we tell the spoofs from the real stuff?