According to an unsigned press release I received in my email this morning, 1.2 million copies of the “exact replica” of the New York Times with a cover date of July 4, 2009 were handed out in the city today. The Gawker blog covers some of the details.
The Times’ own City Room blog has posted a good-natured report the stunt, too:
Catherine J. Mathis, a Times spokeswoman, said: “This is obviously a fake issue of The Times. We are in the process of finding out more about it.”
Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a co-author of “The Trust,” a history of the family that controls The Times, said in a telephone interview that the paper should be flattered by the spoof.
“I would say if you’ve got one, hold on to it,” Mr. Jones, a former Times reporter, said of the fake issue. “It will probably be a collector’s item. I’m just glad someone thinks The New York Times print edition is worthy of an elaborate hoax. A Web spoof would have been infinitely easier. But creating a print newspaper and handing it out at subway stations? That takes a lot of effort.”
Indeed, the Yes Men are known for not doing things half-way, whether it’s appearing on the BBC as representatives of Dow Chemical apologizing for the Bhopal disaster, or speaking on behalf of the WTO at a conference in order to advocate for the “full private stewardry of labor” in Africa.
A well played hoax or prank is a great attention-getting device, and the ability to get attention for a good reason should not be underestimated. And, there is also the sheer joy of a good prank, that is all the more enhanced when it’s in service of a higher goal. While I’m guessing a lot of hard work goes into pulling off a hoax of this magnitude, it’s worth noting that not all “activism” needs to be superserious in order to be effective or make a point — the world I want includes fun.