Ever wondered where tabloids like The Sun get their crazy, often wildly incorrect rumors? Then here’s your answer: random emails which they don’t research at all before publishing as absolute fact.

Right now The Sun is pedaling a rumor in which they claim Jamie Bell is set to star in the next Bond movie opposite Daniel Craig. This is a lie, but not one of their invention.

Earlier this week a new member appeared on our message board claiming to have inside information about the next Bond movie. The post remained up just long enough for it to be noticed before the poster self-deleted it. A few hours later I received an email from this same new message board member, claiming she deleted the message because she was afraid it might be traced back to her. This same person, who now called herself “Lilly” went on to tell me that she knew from her contacts that Jamie Bell would be in the next James Bond movie. I didn’t buy it.

So I responded by asking her to provide some means of corroboration for her story. We’re not opposed to running rumors here on Cinema Blend, but not just any rumor. Information from sources we know, it makes sense to publish, as long as it’s clearly labeled as a rumor. If we get random emails from strange women though, we get suspicious. So I asked Lilly for proof that she knew what she was talking about and she sent me this:
I have my own business as a make-up artist in the film industry, and spend a lot of time on projects filmed in Pinewood and around. I have a friend who is on the casting team at EON, and have heard from him and several others over the last few months that they are batting around the idea of having a younger agent in the next film to fill out the regular MI6 cast. Apparently, the plan is that the character could stick around for at least two films, perhaps more. I don't think the part is scripted or anything, but it's an idea that they've had and if they get the right actor for it will incorporate it into the script. Daniel Craig has lobbied for Jamie Bell, and they are very keen on him, but nothing is definite - he is just one of several in the frame, thoguh he's the fave right now. That's what I understand. I thought it was fun, and of course nobody knows who you are on the net! To be perfectly honest, I've heard this so much from people in the know recently that it wouldn't surprise me if it's leaked to the press very soon. If you're interested in writing about it that's okay, but please please please don't mention me or Cullen Make-Up because then I'll obviously be in a lot of trouble!

Very convincing sounding, but also completely unverifiable. I smelled a rat and it didn’t seem worth wasting any more of my time trying to confirm something so suspicious. Lilly’s email went in my trash folder and I forgot about it.

A few hours later I received a different kind of tip. A tip which led me to a discussion happening here. There, a group had gotten together in an attempt to spread a fake Jamie Bell for James Bond rumor, all as part of proving a point about the way blogs handle their news. They started by trying to spread it to us, mistakenly believing that our Rachel Weisz rumor from a few weeks ago happened in the same manner (It didn’t, as we disclosed in our original post, it came from a proven source.). When we didn’t bite, they moved on to spreading it elsewhere. It’s been done before and while it may be an effective way to spread falsehoods, I’m not sure it really proves anything other than that people lie on the internet. No newsflash there, except that in this case it’s a lie which bloggers are now falling for.

The Sun has republished their fake Jamie Bell for James Bond rumor as have a growing number of other sources. It’s spreading like wildfire and now there’s no stopping it. Suddenly everyone believes Jamie Bell is set to appear in the next 007. Why did so many reporters buy in?

It’s a complex question. Most I’m sure will be quick to dismiss this all as a cynical grab for traffic by publishing carefully crafted fake stories, but if anything this proves that it isn’t. The Sun for instance, didn’t themselves invent a fake story to grab attention, they were simply fooled. There’s a big difference between fabricating a story of thin air and publishing something from an unreliable source. The Sun’s biggest mistake, beyond buying into something that was obviously a hoax, is in failing to disclose how shaky and unconfirmed the rumor was. The Sun, as they always do, published it as if it were fact.

I have no problem with rumors when the person publishing them is honest about where they got them and what they are. This particular rumor should have been filtered out as garbage, but the reality is that this isn’t always easy. A reporter can, for instance, check with studio sources or talent agents, but that’s always a dead end road. Even if a rumor’s true, publicists are trained to deny it (assuming you can even get them to answer their phone). A denial from an agent doesn’t mean a rumor is false, all it really means is that they’re not willing to talk about it. The fact is that a lot of these “denied” rumors end up being true. So as a reporter, where do you go for confirmation? You have two choices really: Sit and wait for the studio or an agent to issue a press release two years from now (which they’ll give exclusively to Variety) or do everything you can to verify your rumor and then run it, hoping for the best.

Where bloggers so often run into trouble is in their failure to disclose information as a rumor. For instance when the scrupulously honest reporters at Screen Rant picked up this same bogus Bond gossip they repeatedly reiterated “this is far from confirmed in any way”. The Sun on the other hand failed to mention at any point in their article that this is a rumor, let alone a rumor received from an extremely suspicious source.

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