ABC's affiliate in Detroit should post one of these reminders in its newsroom:
If it sounds too bizarre, it may not be true.
If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
Hours after WXYZ reported -- to use that word very loosely -- a Detroiter's Facebook claim of a man giving away puppy dogs that supposedly were hyenas, the station yanked it offline and confessed it had been duped.
"[The] claims appear to be false," a Friday afternoon follow-up says.
Since posting the original story, WXYZ-TV has discovered that the video she provided of the alleged hyena was doctored. Additionally, the Detroit resident we initially interviewed has refused to give us the veterinarian’s name to confirm the visit she described to us in detail. At this time, we do not believe the woman's accounts are true.
Hyena-dogs, really now? Even in Detroit, a
notorious glorious incubator of bizarre behavior and over-the-topness, this should have smelled like an urban myth worth checking carefully.
Instead, it slid onto the station's website unchallenged -- a move Metro Times editor Lee DeVito calls out:
This is journalistic malpractice @wxyzdetroit. Did you talk to the vet who allegedly declared this dog to be a hyena? Did you see the animal yourself, or are just running off of weirdly cropped photos? https://t.co/SizJoARrne— Leyland “Lee” DeVito (@leedevito) August 6, 2021
He posts at the weekly's site:
This story doesn't pass the smell test.
For one, when we reached the woman via Facebook to ask if we could see the alleged hyena ourselves, she said we could not. Instead, the woman, who declined to share her real name, offered only a few weirdly cropped photos. ...
The woman would not share the name of the office of the veterinarian who allegedly did the bloodwork that showed her pet is a hyena — the only person who can prove whether or not this story is real. ...
WXYZ-TV took the woman's story and ran with it, seemingly not bothering to track down the vet to ask any questions.
Among those who trusted the station is Kim Trent of Detroit, a former Wayne State Board of Governors member now working as a deputy director at the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. "I'm relieved there aren't hyenas living amongst us and embarrassed that I got caught up," she posts on Facebook.
"I made the mistake of assuming that Channel 7 wouldn't report this without first talking to the vet. Oh well. I got a few good laughs."