Feeds

Braindead obituarists hoaxed by Wikipedia

Only fools and journos

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The veteran BBC TV composer and arranger Ronnie Hazlehurst died on Monday night. His long career at the corporation produced some of the most (irritatingly) memorable theme tunes: including The Two Ronnies, Reggie Perrin, Last Of The Summer Wine, Blankety Blank and the Morse Code theme for Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.

But when his obituaries appeared yesterday, there was an odd addition to Hazlehurst's canon. Apparently he had emerged from retirement a few years ago to co-write the song 'Reach', a hit for Simon "Spice Girls" Fuller's creation S Club 7.

"There could only be one source for this," suggests Shaun Rolph, who tipped us off.

And yes - you can probably guess what it is:

Wikipedia's bogus information on Ronnie Hazelhurst

A couple of seconds in Google takes you to a real, primary source, EMI Publishing, where the correct credit for 'Reach' is hidden in plain view: Cathy Dennis and Andrew Todd. The MCPS confirmed to us that the royalties are split 50:50 between the two composers.

So who fell for this?

Step forward BBC News, the Grauniad 2.0, the Independent, the Times, The Stage and Reuters - who all cut and pasted the phoney factoid from Wikipedia without a second thought. The Times' obituary writer professed to be surprised by Ronnie's late-career comeback - but not so surprised he felt the need to check.

Hats off to the Telegraph, however, for not supping from the poison cup of Web 2.0.

(For you trainspotters: an anonymous edit introduced the hoax into the entries for both Hazlehurst and the song last month; an editor spotted the hoax on the WWiki's page about the song, but not the page for the composer. Subsequently, diligent Wikipedians even corrected the spelling of "Hazlehurst" - but not the false information itself.)

Wikipedian corrects spelling, fails to spot hoax

Wikipedian corrects spelling mistake - fails to spot hoax

Recently, Tom Melly wrote here about how lazy hacks could look no further than Wikipedia for biographical information about his late father George - and rightly put the blame for the spread of misinformation on the journalists themselves.

But this is the first case of obituarists being hoaxed in such large numbers. It's as well Wikipedia hasn't branched out into the Funerals and Tombstones business.

Yet.

Adds Shaun:

"He was at the Beeb for 20 years and they clearly just spent five minutes on Wikipedia to prepare his obit. I'd feel happier if he had written Reach. I'd like to have seen S Club going through Hebden Bridge in a tin bath." ®

Bootnote

With fantastic timing, the Guardian Arts blog asked yesterday, "Could the birth of literary software herald the rise of robotic authors?".

Er... they're working on it, folks - starting with robotic reporters.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.