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Journalist Who Posed as Middle Eastern Tycoon Gets Prison Term

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

UK journalist Mahzer Mahmood didn’t let ethics or truth get in the way of a hot scoop, and now he’s headed to prison. It’s a story that beggars belief, involving politics, pop star drug scandals, royalty real and fake. We’re left to wonder what’s up with the screen rights.


“British Reporter ‘Fake Sheikh’ Jailed for 15 Months”
by Danica Kirka
AP
October 21, 2016

aotpmazhermahmoodA judge sentenced a British journalist who often posed as a Middle Eastern tycoon in sting operations to 15 months in prison on Friday, after the tabloid reporter was convicted of perverting the course of justice in an effort to get scoops.

Mazher Mahmood, a tabloid reporter nicknamed the “Fake Sheikh,” was found guilty earlier this month of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drug trial of pop star and actress Tulisa Contostavlos. The case against Contostavlos originally was based on interviews Mahmood, 53, conducted for the Sun newspaper.

The Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing another 25 convictions linked to Mahmood’s work and has dropped active criminal cases in which Mahmood was to be a witness.

As he was led away to prison, a man in the crowd shouted, “Your turn now, Mazher.”

One of his most famous scoops involved the wife of Prince Edward, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II. Edward’s wife. Posing as an aide to a Saudi Arabian prince interested in hiring her public relations company, Mahmood charmed Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, into making indiscreet comments about the British government in 2001.

The countess also was caught on tape describing then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, as “horrid, horrid, horrid.”

For the sting involving Contostavlos, Mahmood posed as a film producer and discussed a movie role with her that would have her share screen time with Leonardo DiCaprio. Prosecutors said Mahmood gave evidence to police that led to Contostavlos being charged with supplying illicit drugs. Continue reading.

The Journatic Model: Faking the News

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes

Assembly line news for a digital age
by Edward Wasserman
Miami Herald
July 16, 2012

However droopy the rest of the news business might be, dishonesty has become a growth industry, with a steady churn of mini-scandals involving theft, pillage, and fiction. The latest flap over media fakery concerns Journatic, a six-year-old company that sells news organizations what”™s called hyperlocal coverage, once known as community news.

Journatic”™s approach to journalism is unusual, and it came to light in a recent report on This American Life (TAL), the public radio magazine. TAL”™s chief informant was a cheerful but disgruntled Journatic employee named Ryan Smith.

The Journatic that Smith described is a globalized, Internet-based informational assembly line: U.S. data sources are scraped for micro-news of appeal to neighborhood-sized audiences “” home sales, death notices, Little League scores, police blotter entries, honor rolls, school lunch menus, company press releases.

Sometimes raw items are shipped overseas (to the Philippines, for instance) and shaped by low-paid freelancers, then polished by various stateside editors, and finally channeled to client publications, which print them in neighborhood news sections or post them online.

Other times source materials are handed off to piecework U.S. journalists who are told to make a call or two, add live quotes, and re-file for clients far away. (more…)