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Irony

By Steven | October 31, 2010

Something sounded funny to my ear on this morning’s episode of MediaWatch on Radio NZ National. Colin Peacock referred to the Listener’s Quips and Quotes column, which had quoted the following journalistic aphorism and told readers it was attributed to the City News Bureau of Chicago:

If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out with two independent sources.

Like anyone who’s spent more than five minutes at an American journalism school, I’d heard this before, but I’d heard a shorter, punchier version:

If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.

I don’t actually know which is right, and it’s conceivable that they both are, since one is a shortened version of the other. But the longer version sounds to me as if it’s a stitching-together of two ideas. I’m guessing the Listener’s source was Wikipedia, though this entry doesn’t give any direct source for its information.

The irony? It doesn’t seem that the Listener has a second independent source. Google returns all of six websites mentioning the quote in its long version, and they all in turn seem to be sourced from Wikipedia. (There are nearly 9000 sites quoting the shorter version, many of which also attribute it to the Chicago City News Bureau).

Topics: Media ethics | 47 Comments »

47 Responses to “Irony”

  1. christopher mitson Says:
    November 2nd, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    It’s conceivable, Steven, that Google doesn’t have the answer to everything.

    It’s conceivable, Steven, that your guess about Wikipedia is wrong.

    So instead of guessing, why not do what most Berkley j-school grads would do: just ask them? But make sure you get two independent answers.

  2. Steven Says:
    November 8th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Fair point, though if you meant the City News Bureau of Chicago, it closed 5 years ago. I called The Listener a couple of days ago, but they haven’t responded.

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