Over at Journalistic, the ed weighs in on how national media got hoaxed by a website: If only the journalists who wrote about the story had gone to Nominet and its site at www.nic.uk they would have been able to get some further background about who is the owner of the domain. A search would have found it was registered to Kirstin Prisk.
Indeed. But that would assume that anyone had ever shown them that there is a way to discover the owner of a domain, and how to do it. I had to teach myself, back when the Web ran on steam power. It is a skill that comes in very handy; yet only a handful of journalists on “Fleet Street” know how to do it, I’d wager.
Then a quick Google for Kirstin Prisk would have turned up a number of matches for a photographer of the same name in Cornwall who shoots waves. After that, they could have contacted Kirstin and see what he knew about this.
One thing this good advice ignores is how newsdesks work. Newsdesks see one excited story written by one excitable journalist somewhere, and dispatch someone to go and do it bigger. If you call and say that actually, that’s not the story (say, you’d talked to surfers who gave you blank looks) they’d just say you were rubbish at finding the real people with axes to grind. To up the stakes some, it’s rather like proving the non-existence of WMDs, faced with lots of Iraqi exiles (say) who insist that there’s a very active program to develop them.
In other words, newsdesks really *do not* like having what sounds like a good story knocked down. Their attitude, to quote my favourite film, is: “You provide the prose poems and I’ll provide the war.”