Analysis: Revealed: Silly Season's stupidest story

Judging the stupidest story of the Silly Season wasn’t so much fun this year, thanks to the nasty, salacious edge to some of the clickbait stories (Nick Grant chronicles the NZ Herald’s crowd-pleasing coverage of a sexual assault here).

However, there were still some good, wholesome examples of mainstream media attempting to fill the summer news void with mindless stories.

The first runner-up is the Facebook-sourced “New Year's revellers build sandcastle in Coromandel estuary to avoid liquor ban,” as reported by Stuff – although the TV news shows also covered it, including the group’s cheerful but slightly dubious claim that it had thwarted the law by setting up outside New Zealand’s territorial limit.

The unluckiest silly story subject was Palmerston North man Bruce Thomson, who was used in a Stuff story on the dangers of investing in bitcoin after losing "several hundred thousand dollars" – hot on the heels of starring in a story about how to make a mint out of the cryptocurrency. At least they could have changed the picture, though maybe he should just be thankful they spelt his name correctly in the second article (hat tip to holidaying Auckland man Matt Nippert for spotting that one).

The stupidest headline goes to this NZ Herald effort, screen-grabbed for posterity by Brett Roberts before being eventually fixed, or at least made less silly:

The stupidest front-page headline was "I thought I'd be eaten by a shark" – a quote from a fishing boat accident survivor who in fact saw no sharks (not that that stopped the sometimes shark-crazed Herald on Sunday).

The stupidest shark headline (special mention) prize goes to the Sunday Star Times for this effort. It seems that, again, there were no sharks but it does at least give us a new word: "sharkiest," used in the sentence "the 'sharkiest' time of the year."

And the stupidest story was this Sunday Star Times effort (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to have found its way on to Stuff) – “Lotto cash leaving in foreign suitcases”:

Despite the exciting intro – “Watch out lamb and wool” – an Official Information Act request reveals foreigners who buy scratchie and Lotto tickets actually win stuff -all money compared to our multi-billion major exports. In fact, if you include the fact the Lotteries Commission gets to keep the money from unsuccessful backpacker punters (such as the hapless trio featured in the story), the Crown probably comes out ahead.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever collected their Lotto winnings in cash, either. But if they did then, yes, I suppose they could stuff it in suitcases as they left the country.

Anyhow, it's now time for journalists whose Lotto dreams did not come true over the Christmas and New Year break to get back to the business of serious news.

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