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November 5, 1998

An apology to our readers

Two weeks ago, on the front page of this newspaper, it was reported that snakes were everywhere. After further investigation, we have determined that this story was false. Snakes are not everywhere.

The Weekly Week hereby retracts the story and apologizes for any confusion it may have caused.

At a press conference yesterday, Weekly Week publisher Ben Dryer announced the retraction and attempted to explain the source of the mistake.

"In actuality, snakes are simply in very many places," said Dryer, whose head and torso were nearly covered with writhing copperhead snakes. "Make no mistake about it, there are lots of snakes. Hissing, slithering piles of them. Biting children — your children, perhaps — and impeding interstate commerce. They are damn near everywhere.

"But they are not, technically, everywhere," Dryer continued. "They aren’t even in many of the places we said they were, while in other places — places we didn’t even mention — there was nothing but snakes, snakes, snakes, as far as the eye could see. There’s no good excuse for it. Our reporting was shoddy and uneven."

On the downtown stretch of Interstate 93, for example, the story reported that "rush-hour traffic… was at a stand-still, as snakes squirmed into the vehicles’ wheel-wells and rendered them immobile."

But news footage of the road, salvaged from a partially snake-eaten videotape, showed that traffic on the expressway was moving smoothly and snake-free.

The story also reported that a certain John Chambers of Belmont had spent the morning "wading through eight inches of asps in the Public Gardens." But Chambers’ widow said that her husband had actually spent the morning at home in his basement woodshop, designing a special snake-feeder for their backyard.

"He was concerned that, given all the snakes — which seemed to be everywhere, and which the papers were reporting were everywhere — many of them might go hungry and die," she said. "It’s sadly ironic, really. It was his love for the snakes, plus their poisonous bites, that killed him."

Most people suspect that Eugene Mirman, the Weekly Week reporter who first broke the snakes story, is responsible for the story’s fabrication. (Mirman declined to be interviewed for this article.) Colleagues describe Mirman variously as a "hotshot young reporter," a reporter who "always has the knack for getting the big story, especially when snakes are involved," and "fixated with snakes."

Weekly Week editor Bill Wasik apologized for the hoax but said that "we have to rely on our reporters’ honesty."

"Here we have an instance of a reporter who went to incredible lengths to pass off a fraudulent story as true," said Wasik. "He fabricated a detailed set of interview notes, all of which said that snakes were everywhere. He mostly cited sources that were vague or anonymous, making them difficult to verify. He even gave me a fake phone number, which he said was the ‘weather phone,’ that featured a recorded voice — his own voice, I discovered too late — saying ‘Snakes are everywhere,’ over and over."

"I typically would have fact-checked a story like this, but I was kept from going outside by all the snakes," said Wasik. "I mean, sweet Jesus, they were everywhere."

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