Sunday, November 1, 2009

Flashback - The Convertible Capitol Building

Reading an old Robert Darton article in the NY Review of Books, "The Library in the New Age":
"Let's begin with the Internet and work backward in time. More than a million blogs have emerged during the last few years. They have given rise to a rich lore of anecdotes about the spread of misinformation, some of which sound like urban myths. But I believe the following story is true, though I can't vouch for its accuracy, having picked it up from the Internet myself. As a spoof, a satirical newspaper, The Onion, put it out that an architect had created a new kind of building in Washington, D.C., one with a convertible dome. On sunny days, you push a button, the dome rolls back, and it looks like a football stadium. On rainy days it looks like the Capitol building. The story traveled from Web site to Web site until it arrived in China, where it was printed in the Beijing Evening News. Then it was taken up by the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, CNN,, and countless blogs as a story about the Chinese view of the United States: they think we live in convertible buildings, just as we drive around in convertible cars."
Some criticism of Darton's account here, an original story in Wired, and from 2005 about another incident where bloggers cycled rumors that Google was preparing to purge all information it couldn't index...also from an Onion article. [via Danwei.] And the original Onion article here.

Related and separate, a story from two years ago here about Pasadena Now, which has outsourced local reporting to India [one staffer sits in Bombay on a $12K salary, another in Banglore on a 7K salary]. Maureen Dowd [ugh] last year wrote a foreign-local correspondent on the job:
I checked in with one of his workers in Mysore City in southern India, 40-year-old G. Sreejayanthi, who puts together Pasadena events listings. She said she had a full-time job in India and didn’t think of herself as a journalist. “I try to do my best, which need not necessarily be correct always,” she wrote back. “Regarding Rose Bowl, my first thought was it was related to some food event but then found that is related to Sports field.”

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