Feeds

Braindead obituarists hoaxed by Wikipedia

Only fools and journos

Top three mobile application threats

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.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple ran off to IBM
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.