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L.A. Times falls for Internet hoax, then sets the record straight

On May 1, The Times and a number of other media organizations followed the outrageous story reported in a British newspaper of a vengeful dentist in Poland who pulled out all of her ex-boyfriend’s teeth.

The Times’ article on the Tech Now blog focused on the huge response the story had received online:

Versions of the story have been tweeted and shared again and again on Facebook and via Google. A version of the story posted on Yahoo News already has 15,000 comments and counting.

But the article went on to repeat details of the story in the original Daily Mail article -- which has since been removed from its website -- including quotes from the reputed victim, such as, “I didn’t have any reason to doubt her; I mean I thought she was a professional.”

Unfortunately, reported Wednesday, the story was a hoax.

MSNBC did some digging into the story and found:

  • Police in Wroclaw, Poland, had no record of such an incident.
  • Poland’s Chamber of Physicians and Dentists also had no record of any such incident, nor of the dentist named in the article.
  • The Daily Mail could not recall where the story came from.
  • And the American Dental Assn. said the such a case was highly improbable.

After Craig Silverman of Regret the Error pointed out MSNBC’s findings on the Poynter Institute’s website, The Times corrected its May 1 article.

Times reporter Rene Lynch also wrote a follow-up post that was published Wednesday evening.

“No doubt, journalism watchdogs will rightfully point to the episode as a cautionary tale of what can happen when journalists like me are sitting at a keyboard, trying to keep up with fast-breaking news and a 24-hour news cycle that just doesn't quit,” Lynch wrote.

“Kudos to MSNBC for taking the time and making the effort to follow the story behind the story. No matter how fast the news is breaking, there's always time to find out the truth.” 

--Deirdre Edgar


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Comments (9)

No correction to the May 1 Los Angeles Times article appears at

Hi, Ally. Those are corrections to stories that have appeared in the print paper. The correction on the May 1 blog post has been appended to the top of the post itself:,0,290880.story

Yet the story of Lorena Bobbit is true--so, although a hoax, this tale wasn't entirely implausible.

The Daily Mail, where the LA Times got this story from, makes no effort to ascertain the veracity of the stories it publishes. If it sounds good, they print it.

"The Daily Mail could not recall where the story came from." That is the most shameful part of the story.

Did the LA Times correct the stories that Iraq had WMDs, that it caused 911, and that Bush did not fail to protect America on 911?

"trying to keep up with fast-breaking news and a 24-hour news cycle that just doesn't quit,” - That sentence describes exactly what is wrong with the media today. The race to be the first is ridiculous.

No doubt, the Sarah Palins and other Tea Party Darlings of the world will cite this as proof of the fallibility of the "lamestream media". There's a difference, though: Actual journalists ADMIT when they've gotten it wrong, like here.

Palin and her personal news network, and talk-radio blowhards keep spewing apocrypha and propaganda, hiding behind the flag and bible for gilt by association, and using call screeners to keep it pure.

Yeah. Back when newspapers actually sent human beings into the field to get facts, this didn't happen quite so often. Now if a formerly reputable newspaper sees some witless tweet go viral, they assume it's true. Can we stop trying to be firstest with the mostest, and try reporting facts?

This is the backup site for The Los Angeles Times. We'll post news and information if becomes inoperable or inaccessible.

this is a test breaking news post |  April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm »


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