'Daily Mail' Pulls Story About 'Canadian' K-Pop Artist 'Saint Von Colucci'
Less than two days after iHeartRadio.ca debunked a Daily Mail story about the death of a “Canadian” named Saint Von Colucci, it was quietly pulled offline Wednesday afternoon.
Published on Monday, the Daily Mail report claimed Colucci died in a South Korean hospital “after spending $220,000 on TWELVE plastic surgeries to play BTS’s KPOP star Jimin” in a forthcoming drama series.
Daily Mail has not publicly commented on its decision to delete the article but, according to a source, its editors determined that New York-based reporter Ruth Bashinsky was duped and the whole story is a hoax.
As iHeartRadio.ca pointed out on Monday, there were glaring inconsistencies in the report and a lack of evidence that any of it was true. Still, it was picked up by media outlets around the world, including TMZ, Page Six and Canada’s Postmedia.
“All the red flags were there. All the inconsistencies. Yet many large media orgs believed the story and wrote about it without any fact-checking. Zero,” tweeted Raphael Rashid, a freelance journalist in Seoul who shared early skepticism about the story on Twitter.
“The idea of a foreign man undergoing a ridiculous amount of plastic surgery to look like their idol and tragically dying in the process is the kind of story that captures the public's attention. More importantly, it's the kind of story that generates clicks. A perfect storm. It's the type of story that people want to believe, especially when it involves a beloved celebrity like Jimin.”
In a statement to Korean media, Global Affairs Canada said it is "aware of reports of the death of [a] Canadian in South Korea and is working to confirm the information. No further information is available at this time." The Korean National Police Agency said has been unable to confirm the report.
Rashid challenged journalists to step up. “More than ever, they need to play their role in verifying information, debunking fake news, and promoting accuracy and accountability. It’s not and won’t be easy, but it’s necessary,” he opined.
“An attitude of only publishing stories that will ‘do well’ also doesn’t help.”
It’s not clear who is behind the hoax or why someone pulled it off. “Perhaps it [was] done simply for fun, as a prank or some social experiment,” Rashid tweeted. “It’s possible that someone created the ‘Saint Von Colucci’ persona and the accompanying story as a way to entertain themselves or to see how far they could take the hoax.
“Another possibility is that the person was attention-seeking or desired control, or a feeling of power. It's also possible that there were more sinister motivations at hand.”
Rashid said the Colucci story might be “a funny example” but it should be a cautionary tale.
“This time it was a plastic surgery Jimin wannabe hoax, but what could it be tomorrow? Whatever they were, we need to support and invest in quality journalism, fact-checking, media literacy, and critical thinking skills.”