Irish College Student Dupes Media With Wikipedia Hoax

    May 8, 2009
    WebProNews Staff

When fans across the globe read of composer Maurice Jarre’s death at the end of March, they were treated to a charming quote: “One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear.”

It’s cute, but the thing is, Jarre never said it. Irish college student Shane Fitzgerald did, on Wikipedia.

One of the sad things about modern composers is that you only know them by the movies their music has been used in. For Jarre—if IMDB is to be believed—you may have heard his scores in movies like Doctor Zhivago, Ghost, and Dead Poets Society.

One of the sad things about the American press is that it really didn’t notice until it became apparent the English-speaking foreign press was royally duped.

Fitzgerald planted the quote on Wikipedia as the news of Jarre’s death broke in late Irish night as a sort of social experiment. His explanation to the Irish Times—to show how journalists use the internet as a primary source and how people are connected by the internet—sounds a bit like after-the-fact-holy-crap justification; we’ll let it slide this time because it is pretty funny. 

The quote and, weeks later, retractions were published in the Guardian, the London Independent, the BBC Music Magazine, and in Indian and Australian papers. Fitzgerald said he expected bloggers to fall for it, not so much the mainstream press. The quote was posted without citation.

What’s really interesting also is that Fitzgerald’s persistence in vandalizing Wikipedia eventually paid off. The quote was deleted several times, almost as soon as it was posted. Apparently Wikipedia editors got tired of fighting it or the quote got lost in shift change.