So Cute it Has to Be True

Last fall this 30 second video clip of a pig saving a baby goat from a pond made the rounds, getting play on Time magazine’s and Ellen DeGeneres’ Twitter feeds, and broadcast time on the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and Fox News.

Thing is, the video’s a stunt. Via the New York Times:

[The video] was created for a new Comedy Central series, “Nathan for You,” with the help of some 20 crew members, including animal trainers, scuba divers and humane officers, and required the fabrication of a plastic track to guide the pig to the goat (which was never in jeopardy).

That a faked video had been so rapidly disseminated by unskeptical news outlets was both surprising and dispiritingly familiar to professional experts on the news media.

“It really is embarrassing for the journalists who stumbled upon this and decided to promote it or share it with their audience,” said Kelly McBride, the senior faculty for ethics, reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute. “It’s almost a form of malpractice.”

But to the creators of the video — which has since been viewed more than seven million times — the news reports are the unexpected if felicitous results of a social experiment in which they say they were not aspiring to this level of deceit.

As the Times points out, when the video was shown on NBC’s Nightly News, Brian Williams said the network was “duty-bound to pass this on.” He did offer the caveat that they weren’t quite sure whether the video was true.

Unfortunate Pro Tip: Some things are too cute to be true.

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