Fake 'Twerk Fail' Video Tricks Gullible TV News Networks

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Last week a video of a girl dancing, falling and catching on fire made its way onto cable and local news networks. This week, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel came forward to reveal that the video was a hoax and that he staged the whole thing. It's not the first time the press has been duped by videos engineered to go viral.


We have one more story where the media clearly lost control. Last week, a video of, let's say, dancing gone wrong, made its way around the Web in a big way. Not only that, it was picked up by many cable and local news networks. This week, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel revealed the video was a hoax, that he staged the whole thing. NPR's Sami Yenigun reports this isn't the first time the media have been duped by staged scenes designed to go viral.

SAMI YENIGUN, BYLINE: It's got over 11 million views...


YENIGUN: ...a woman in black yoga pants, a ponytail and a pink shirt is twerking, dancing in a handstand with her legs propped up against the bedroom door, her hips moving to the beat, when all of a sudden, someone opens the door she's leaning on.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: What the, what the...


YENIGUN: She's screaming because her pants are on fire. She seems to fall in an array of candles. The video quickly made its way around social media and then on to TV news.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Apparently, twerking, or just trying to do it, is getting downright dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This could be the most disastrous attempt at twerking of all time.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Unintelligible) twerking. You might catch on fire.

YENIGUN: But on Monday night, the extended cut of this video surfaced. In walks Jimmy Kimmel with a fire extinguisher.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Thanks, Jimmy Kimmel.

YENIGUN: The woman in the video is a stuntwoman. And as Kimmel explained on his show, the whole thing was a setup.


JIMMY KIMMEL: And we shot the video two months ago, and we posted it on YouTube. We didn't send it to any TV stations. We just put it on YouTube and let the magic happen. And the magic - it got nine million views in a week, in less than a week. And...

YENIGUN: This isn't the first time that news organizations have posted videos that seem to be one thing but are actually another. There was the baby pig who saved the goat.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: And there he is, the hero pig.

YENIGUN: That one was created by Comedy Central personality Nathan Fielder for his TV show. There was also the video of a golden eagle snatching up a baby...


YENIGUN: ...again, on TV news. And the reason it's there is simple, says George Washington University media Professor Nikki Usher.

NIKKI USHER: It's pretty easy to pop in a quick YouTube video for a quick laugh and you eat up a minute, and it's relevant, and you're trying to reach out to an audience that's perhaps a younger demographic.

YENIGUN: Usher says local news organizations often don't have the resources for hard news. Plus, once one outlet airs it, others follow suit.

USHER: So you sort of get a perpetuation of false information. And that kind of sets a dangerous precedent.

YENIGUN: Usher does say that many premiere news organizations do have teams that vet YouTube videos. Kevin Allocca is head of culture and trends at YouTube. He points out that the debate over authenticity actually helps traffic.

KEVIN ALLOCCA: There's so much conversation about the veracity of the video that that actually feeds its popularity because it gives us something to talk about.

YENIGUN: Jimmy Kimmel's reveal video, the one where he shows us that it was all a fake, that one now has nine million hits and counting. Sami Yenigun, NPR News.



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