The Wire hoax highlights perils of churnalism…

WHEN shadow home secretary Chris Grayling compared lawless parts of Britain to the violent, drug-soaked Baltimore of hit TV show The Wire, it drew an outraged response from the Mayor of Baltimore (see pic).

But perhaps alarm bells should have started ringing when the Mayor stated that the comparison was “as pointless as boasting that Baltimore has a per capita homicide rate a fraction of that in popular UK television show Midsomer Murders.” Her juicy soundbites ended up in the Independent, Guardian and BBC among others… but the whole thing was a hoax perpetuated by Alex Hilton (‘Recess Monkey’).

In a delicious twist of post-modern irony, the current series of The Wire features a fictionalised Baltimore Sun, where under-pressure journalists carry reports from a hoaxster. The Hilton hoax was also published by the real Baltimore Sun, and the sucker was the journalist who succeeded The Wire creator, David Simon, as police reporter on the Baltimore Sun!

Although the hoax is now offline, if you visit the fake website where it appeared and ‘view source’ in your page menu, you can see how it might have been spotted. Sadly for Alex, the Mayor is now considering legal action and an predictable online fight is under way.