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Space hoax


The Space Coast Office of Tourism in Brevard County wanted some attention of the "We're Not On Fire Anymore" variety. So they sent out a press release, fashioned to look like an article from the Tallahassee Democrat but with an Associated Press dateline, that claims a Democrat reporter was "missing" after going to cover the Disney ship's arrival and accepting free lodging from the tourism office. The release quotes a fictional editor suggesting the reporter is off having a great time.

AP and the Democrat were not amused. "It's a disgraceful thing that they did," Bob Shaw, managing editor of the Democrat, told the Orlando Business Journal. The AP's editors were similarly distraught. The PR firm's response? "It was very harmless," Zimmerman Agency VP Richard Lang told OBJ.

It's no secret that the tourism industry's "news" is written mostly by PR firms -- ever read about a bad vacation destination in a travel magazine? Zimmerman's sin was in making a joke of it -- even an inside joke. The tourism office is sending apologies to the 200 newspapers that got the original release.

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