Fox News recently aired a segment in which it was claimed that herpes (and other diseases) could be transmitted by playing beer pong. While the desire to keep the public informed about health threats is a laudable one, the news segment was based on a hoax.
Of course, this is not the first time that news agencies have accepted hoaxes or jokes as real news. While people do (obviously) get taken in by such things, a major news agency should at least take a few minutes to research a story before presenting it to the public. While it is funny to hear that a news agency made such a foolish error, it is also worrisome. After all, if the beer pong story can slip by without any critical assessment, this entails that other hoaxes and jokes can slip by as well.
This is not to say that we should expect the news folks to never make mistakes. But, it is quite reasonable to expect at least some minimal effort at confirmation before running a story-especially when a credible source is lacking.
Fortunately, this sort of thing is relatively rare and the news is generally reliable. But, this incident does serve to remind people that they need to critical when they watch the news.