When WSFA-TV (Montgomery, Ala.) reporter Jennifer Oravet read in The Onion that PR firm Hill & Knowlton was advising the U.S. to cut ties with Alabama, she went to work, made a phone call and posted her findings on Facebook:
“I contacted the PR firm listed in this article, they claim the article is ‘ficticious’ and have no involvement in the alleged study.”
Actually, Jennifer, all Onion articles are fictitious. (Just one c.)
Did she know that when she put in the call to Hill & Knowlton? I called WSFA to find out and was told that Oravet is taking the day off. A newsroom colleague – she wouldn’t give me her name – insisted that the reporter/anchor knew the Hill & Knowlton/Alabama story was fake from the start.
“It doesn’t sound like it based on her Facebook post,” I said.
“Did you see her report?” the colleague asked.
I said I had, and figured she had been set straight about The Onion before going on air. Wrong, I was told — Oravet always knew it was a satirical paper.
WSFA Facebook commenters have their doubts, too. One writes:
“I don’t know what’s better, her original post, or her backpedaling to ‘cover up; her mistake. I’ve done dummy things like that (most recent when I applauded Beyonce at the inauguration… lip sync anyone?) but come on, admit you’re stupid sometimes just like the rest of us.”
Another person writes:
“LOL, so I read through the comments and I see that someone “demands” we give [her] a break. Seriously?? Someone takes the Onion as serious and we should give a break??? Eff that, this was a fail of epic proportions and should be exploited to the nth degree. There’s honestly no coming back from this! Only in Bama!”
I’ve emailed Oravet for comment, hoping she occasionally checks in on days off. I also called and emailed WSFA news director Scott Duff earlier this afternoon.
UPDATE: Duff called me on Monday morning and said: “Jennifer knew it was a fictitious site. We were not in any way hoodwinked by the Onion. …She is an excellent reporter and knew from the very start that the story was fictitious.”