Postal Service Unveils 'Portable Zip Codes' Program

Journalists have a responsibility to report accurate stories — except on April Fool's Day. In 2004, NPR ran a piece about people keeping their current zip codes no matter where they moved.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

Journalists have an explicit responsibility to inform the public, to tell the truth, and to report 100 percent factually accurate stories, except on April Fools' Day.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Yep, it's that one day of the year that we in the media can pull a fast one on you guys and report, yeah, whatever we want. OK, not really, but we can have a little fun.

STEWART: Long tradition of it. April 1st, 1957, the BBC News show "Panorama" reported that thanks to a very mild winter and the extermination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were harvesting record spaghetti crops. They even had footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees, and people actually called into the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.

MARTIN: I'd be into that. And on April 1st, 1999, the Phoenix New Times ran a hoax story about the Arm the Homeless Coalition. Now, this was a group that allegedly provided the homeless with guns and ammunition instead of shelter and food. The story reportedly was picked up by "60 Minutes II", the Associated Press, and numerous local radio stations before everyone realized it was just a joke, people.

STEWART: Oh, the kooks at NPR like to get in on the fun, too. In 2004, All Things Considered ran this entirely fictitious story about postal service plans to launch a national portable zip codes program where Americans could keep their current zip codes, no matter where they moved. Here's a clip of NPR's Andrea Seabrook's April Fools' story.

(Soundbite of show "All Things Considered")

ANDREA SEABROOK: The stationary system of zip codes has been in place for decades. In that time, those five numbers evolved from just a series of digits to a status symbol, like an expensive watch or a handsome hairpiece. Rex Eaglebauer heads Citizens for Retention of all Postal Services.

Mr. REX EAGLEBAUER (Director, Citizens for Retention of all Postal Services): I lived in Manhattan for years, and I had a 10024 zip code. And that's not a 2-7. People know what 2-4 means when you're in Manhattan, and I want to carry that with me. Having achieved a 10024, I don't want to give that up for something that, you know, God forbid, doesn't even start with 100.

SEABROOK: The new mobile zip code feature is only the latest addition to the Go Postal program, which began last April 1st. USPS officials say Go Postal has already been a success with millions of dollars of new revenue coming from the introduction of pop-up ads on postage stamps.

MARTIN: Oh, Andrea is so funny. Here's another April Fools' Day treat from All Things Considered. This one from 2003, NPR's Rick Karr reported on the Library of Congress' attempt to transfer the sound from all tapes, CDs, LPs, 8-track tapes, and other audio materials, get this, onto ten-inch wide 78 RPM shellac discs - an attempt to preserve precious perishable sound recordings.

RICK KARR: Byron Nordine writes for trade publication The Inner Ear, and is a member of the audio transfer team.

Mr. BYRON NORDINE (Writer, The Inner Ear): You'd be able to take anything, like a stick or a sewing needle, a hundred years from now, and just put it to the surface of this, and you'd be able to hear the sound. If we return to a caveman state, they'd be able to do it just by sharpening the point of a rock like an arrowhead.

KARR: Nonetheless, preservationists continue to turn back the clock, one shellac disc at a time. They say that if funding levels can be maintained they can catch up with recordings made through today by April 1st, 2089.

STEWART: That should have been the clue - the end cue there. And here's a fake report filed on April 1st, 2002, by NPR's Julie Rovner about Universal Healthcare for Pets. Under the faux measure, veterinary care coverage would be fully subsidized by tax dollars.

JULIE ROVNER: HHS spokesman Roland Dalet says the measure is designed to cover all animals, large and small.

Mr. ROLAND DALET (Spokesman, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services): Your cat, your dog, your iguana, your great komodo dragon, whatever you have at home, the anaconda, you know, it's covered under this because, I mean, who can put a premium, who can quantify your feeling for that animal, and what that animal gives back to you? Think how much poorer we would be as a nation, as a civilization, without our pets.

ROVNER: Dalet points out that some states already allocate money to cover farm animals, but until now no state, let alone Uncle Sam, has guaranteed hairball removal for Fluffy, grooming for Fido, or even as under this proposal, back surgery for the family vole.

MARTIN: You know, did you say Robert Dalet? That's a little inside joke here at NPR.

STEWART: The Dalet system.

MARTIN: We in the media, we really are in a position of power in that situation, because it's the way we deliver - everyone believes us.

STEWART: Not everybody, Rachel.

MARTIN: They don't? You guys don't believe everything we say?

STEWART: Hey, if you have your own April Fools' hoax to share, check out our blog, npr.org/bryantpark. I'm just amazed she worked Dalet into a script.

MARTIN: So, that's it for this hour of the BPP. Thanks for listening. You can find us online all the time. We're there, jeez, 20 - at least 24 hours a day - npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Rachel Martin.

STEWART: And I'm Alison Stewart. Thanks so much for listening to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

MARTIN: Happy April Fools'!

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