In the wake of political scandals across social media, fake news has become quite the hot topic with many platforms vowing to combat the poor practice moving forward. It seems that fake news is alive and well in print media, however, with UK publications such as The Sun and the Daily Mirror caught fabricating exaggerated stories surrounding trending video games.
Fortnite: Battle Royale is the latest to enter media crosshairs, with stories of widespread addiction to the craze. While there is cause for concern for potentially addicted players of the free-to-play game, some mainstream print publications have been caught manufacturing exaggerated stories and headlines in an attempt to bolster readership. One of the primary culprits being Matthew Barbour, who most recently published “Fortnite made me a suicidal drug addict” for the Daily Mirror.
Two years prior, Barbour targeted the immense popularity of Pokémon Go as a contributing editor for The Sun. People Make Games creator Chris Bratt, formerly of Eurogamer, explains that Barbour sent out “a blanket email via ResponseSource asking for anyone to describe its ‘potential negative effects’ in exchange for £100.” This included suggestions of what the participant might even want to talk about.
Two years ago when Pokemon Go was the game of the moment, he sent this blanket email via ResponseSource, asking for anyone to describe its "potential negative effects" in exchange for £100. He even suggests a few problems they might like to talk about. (2/8) pic.twitter.com/DL4kTyr2Wn
— Chris Bratt (@bratterz) July 31, 2018
In an attempt to expose the deplorable practice and see just how far down the rabbit hole manufactured news goes, Bratt decided to construct his own story in order to appeal to Barbour: “Pokemon Go is ruining my marriage.”
Even after Barbour figured out that the story of Jessie and James hunting for Pokémon with their office cat was mostly false, he revealed in a phone call that it didn’t matter and that the story was set to go ahead regardless. Eventually, plans broke down after Barbour requested comment from ‘Jessie’, even going as far as to suggest they break up on behalf of the story.
Ryan Brown, freelance games writer for The Mirror’s online component, explained that online and print media are often two entirely different teams with little to no communication between them. Although Brown has personally denounced sensentionalised stories and headlines, both Matthew Barbour and the British tabloids have yet to address recent revelations in an official capacity.
KitGuru Says: I can understand the need to purposefully target a certain market with headlines and stories, but fear mongering and complete fabrication should not be tolerated within the industry. Hopefully this reveal helps readers wise up and print media to take action.