Monday, June 4, 2012

Five front page stories that didn't happen

In late April, media around the world, including CBC News and The Globe and Mail, picked up on a story that a vengeful dentist in Poland had extracted all the teeth of an ex-boyfriend. According to Polish media and MSNBC, it didn't happen.

The story appears to have originated with the Daily Mail in London on April 27. Reporter Simon Tomlinson quotes the dentist, Anna Mackowiak, and her ex, Marek Olszewski. Many media organizations pointed back to the original article. Some even presented the story as their own without checking the facts, complete with the quotes — and sometimes, even a photo.

A number of Polish media did check and, within days of the original Daily Mail article, published information that suggests there is nothing to the story. No dentist or doctor named Anna Mackowiak practices in Wroclaw, no police records were found about the case. Experts were interviewed, but nothing that could corroborate the story turned up.

Dentistry professor Marek Zietek of the Medical University of Wroclaw could recall just one case, from 30 years ago, in which a female patient's teeth were pulled, but that was at her request, and she was later found to be insane, the Gazeta Wroclawska reported on May 2.

It took a week for western media to catch up to what Polish media had been reporting. And that is probably a result of a story on MSNBC.com on May 8. Read More