An April Fools’ Day spoof by a weekly newspaper was picked up by a leading national newspaper website which reported it as fact.
The Croydon Advertiser reported on 1 April that Westfield would erect a huge statue of Kate Moss in a provocative yoga pose as the centrepiece of their new shopping centre in Croydon.
The online story claimed that the Australian retail giant had commissioned sculptor Marc Quinn to produce a replica of his 18-carat gold statue to cheer up the town, after a Daily Mail article said the Croydon was the second unhappiest place to live in the UK.
Its prank story was published last Monday morning and was followed up by Mail Online at the weekend, which repeated the claims at the bottom of an article about Moss’ appearance at an Aids charity fundraiser – although that part of the story has now been removed.
By the time the Mail Online story appeared, the Advertiser had already run a piece after midday on April Fools’ Day saying the idea had been scrapped after a public backlash.
Editor Glenn Ebrey said: “I guess this is a lesson to them that, next time they decide to borrow some of our work, they check with us first. In this case, a simple call to the newsdesk would have avoided a very unfortunate misunderstanding.”
He said chief reporter Gareth Davies had come up with the idea for the April Fool story and put it together.
Glenn added: “The reason I think it worked so well was because it has all the ingredients – Croydon’s most famous person, arguably the biggest news story of the year so far here (Westfield’s takeover of the Whitgift Shopping Centre) and a touch of humour.
“It was also just about believable enough that some people would fall for it, as the Mail’s example has shown!”
The story had 4,000 hits on the day it was posted and was one of the most-read stories on the Advertiser’s website last week.
Other Local World sister websites to publish April Fools’ Day stories included thisissussex, which claimed that singer Peter Andre would become East Grinstead’s new mayor and thisissurrey which reported on theme park plans for East Surrey.
The Advertiser’s original story claimed that directors had chosen to honour Kate Moss because her famous haircut – the Croydon facelift – summed up their plans for the Whitgift Centre, but that Hammerson, partners in the £1bn joint venture, preferred a statue of comedian Ronnie Corbett, who lives in the town.
It reported that the sculpture would be given pride of place in the entrance to the new centre and Westfield were considering naming the building the Kate Moss Mega Mall, but Hammerson preferred the name Ronnie Corbett’s Castle.
The Advertiser reported that if the plan went ahead, the sculture would be the first to feature changeable clothes, and Westfield would let it out to fashion retailers.
It also claimed there had been an online petition calling on Westfield to drop Moss in favour of a 30ft statue of Darth Vader in honour of actor Dave Prowse.
No one from Mail Online was available for comment at the time of publication.