Rock 100.5 morning show The Regular Guys duped hundreds of media outlets this past weekend by creating a fake protest of Justin Bieber’s possible new residence in Buckhead.
From TMZ to the local TV news stations to international media, stories about the protest posted without question before the Regular Guys revealed the hoax at 8:50 a.m. this morning. (The only suspicious media outlet was Creative Loafing.)
Larry Wachs of the Regular Guys last week was talking on air about Bieber considering a home in Buckhead. He mentioned that maybe Buckhead residents should protest the pop star’s possible arrival into their neighborhood.
So the morning show’s intern crew created a Facebook page representing the fake “Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition” and set up a fictional protest. This page went viral, leading to all the breathless Bieber-related media coverage. The real Buckhead Coalition led by former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell was bombarded with phone calls as well. He had nothing to do with this, of course.
This morning, a handful of Regular Guys interns pretended to be concerned Buckhead citizens in front of the mansion. All four local TV stations were there, along with a Miami correspondent for TMZ and folks from Star 94 and Power 96.1. Regular Guys crew member Tim Andrews, as a rep for the group Harold White, said he talked via Facebook or by phone to the National Post in Canada, CNN and the BBC, among others.
“We kind of took steps to make it work and then release it into the ether,” Wachs said later Monday. “We couldn’t predict how wide it would go but by Sunday afternoon, it was apparent this was going to be big.” If anything, he said, it shows how easy it can be to fool reporters who don’t check the veracity of sources.
A sample story from Fox 5:
Why did this hoax work so effectively? It sounded plausible. It was a topic the press loves to write about. And it plays into our images of Buckhead residents being uptight.
The last time an Atlanta radio station created a national ruckus over a prank was 99X in 2005 when Rich Shertenlieb held up a sign “Iron my shirt”/”Make My Dinner” in front of women’s rights activist Martha Burk, who was protesting the Masters club’s all-male policy at the time. Shertenlieb called himself Heyward Jablome.