Robert Bailey was concerned about transferring to UB next semester after he read Buffalo State’s April Fools’ article, “UB declares independence from SUNY, gets rid of in-state tuition rate.”
He wasn’t sure if UB would be a smart financial choice for him.
But he didn’t realize the article was a satire piece until his friend called him out.
The Record, Buffalo State’s online student newspaper, published an April Fools’ article stating UB President Satish K. “Tripathia” announced that UB would be leaving the SUNY system to become a private institution starting in 2018.
The article also said UB students who are New York State residents would have to pay the additional $17,240 that is charged to out-of-state residents. The satirical piece was part of The Record’sApril Fools’ edition.
The Record article’s original posted date was March 30. Dan Almasi, executive editor of The Record, said this was the draft date of the article and he didn’t realize a wrong date was posted. The Record later changed the date to April 1.
“It was a great April Fools’ joke and we tricked a lot of people,” Almasi said. “I think the people who only read through the full story, which is what you should always do before taking anything away from a story, would see it was false.”
The fake news article originally did not say it was an April Fools’ joke until April 2, after a UB employee called The Recordto request this, according Almasi.
Almasi said he only noted this article as a satire piece because the rest of the April Fools’ pieces were “so obviously” satire.
But many people were not happy with The Record’s joke.
Cynthia Tysick, head of UB educational services, believes the article was done in “absolutely poor taste” and thinks Almasi should write an apology letter to UB.
“If they wanted to poke fun at tuition, I’m pretty sure they could have done their own in-state, out-of-state tuition joke,” Tysick said. “They didn’t need to direct it at us.”
Almasi said he is not apologizing for “anything.” He said it was a “successful” April Fools’ joke and a “good lesson” in media literacy for everyone.
Tysick said this article could affect current and incoming students at UB who misread the article. She said this is the time of year where students are accepting admissions offers to UB and are considering the cost of tuition.
“The danger in this that I see is if a parent didn’t read the whole article, they may be making a snap judgment to pull their kid out of school,” Tysick said. “It’s financially impacting our institution. So the implications for not being news literate can be economic for you and for other people.”
Tysick highlighted the C.R.A.P test that is used to detect if something is fake news. Tysick asked, “Is it current, relevant, authoritative and what’s the point?”
Fake news telltale signs in the article included Tripathi’s name being spelled wrong, grammatically incorrect quotes and the fact that a sports writer reported on policy and school governance.
Almasi said every editor at The Recordhad the freedom to pick an idea for a satire piece. Francis Boeck, associate sports editor, chose to write the article, which received over 47,000 website views, according to Almasi. He said this is a surprisingly high number of views compared to other articles and was happy to say the article went “semi-viral.”
“My aim was really more at satirical stories that would make people laugh,” Almasi said. “Francis had his own idea to make this fake story and I don’t like to employ too heavy a hand, so I let him run with it.”
Tysick said a “sad fact” is many people do not read the bottom of the article and would have realized the article wasn’t true if they read its entirety.
Almasi was shocked by the reactions to the article. Almasi said he received feedback from people who appreciated the joke and angry feedback from students and faculty.
“You know it was actually very surprising to me that people were so readily willing to accept this as fact,” Almasi said. “There’s no other outlet that was running this story, which of course would have been the case. I think anyone with any media literacy who looked into it would have immediately dismissed it as false.”
Boston Kistka, a sophomore psychology major, thought the article was a joke almost immediately. She searched the story online to make sure no other results came up from other news outlets.
Kistka works for UB’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and said she received emails from the Admissions department saying people have been calling the school concerned that this announcement would affect their decision to attend UB. Kistka said she hasn’t received any of those calls yet.
The Spectrum reached out to Jose Aviles, director of Undergraduate Admissions who did not respond in time for print.
Cameron Priest, a sophomore chemical engineering major, thought the article was
“very believable” until his acquaintance told him it wasn’t real.
“I guess good job to Buff State on their April Fools’ joke,” Priest said. “I mean it seemed a little extreme, but I heard our president also had been kind of forceful about making UB a research one university, so it was definitely believable, I’ll say that.”
Tysick will use Buffalo State’s April Fools’ story to show students why a healthy news diet is essential.
“I think news literacy is important because you are bombarded with so much news all the time,” Tysick said. “You’re going to have to know and think critically what the truth is so that you can be an educated citizen. At the end of the day, you have to go out there and make sure you have these critical skills so that you’re not taken in by some of the garbage that’s out there.”
Hannah Stein is a co-senior news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org