Have you read a North Shore News-ish story recently about a dog being plucked from a fast-flowing creek by rescuers using ropes and “seat belts”?
Or the Whistler Pique-ish story about a legendary hockey player meeting with a young team and telling the players that they must “run fast” when they are on the ice? Or the Squamish Chief-ish story about the woman who goes on extreme adventures with “plural horses”?
Plural horses? You mean, horseses?
You must know that no one at our paper or our many quality sister publications would write the words “plural horses” in a story. Well, maybe I would, but I for darn sure would follow it up with something like “why the long faceses?”
If you have read one of these stories, you can join us in a good chuckle, having stumbled upon one of the weirdest inter-bot phenomena that we here in the community newspaper business have encountered. It seems that someone, or something, has formed a business based upon taking our news stories – which we have painstakingly researched and reported and fact-checked and written while consuming locally sourced doughnuts – and simply stolen them and posted them as their own.
Except what they have done isn’t exactly “simple.” The stories are almost identical to the ones we have published online except there are weird little differences. Something is just a little off, like a raccoon that’s actually a toddler dressed as a raccoon, yet somehow still climbing straight up the drainpipe.
The stories, it appears, have been run through some sort of translation system, although this is a very odd thing to do because the end result has been to translate them from English into worse English. For instance, one story involved a person named “Schmetterling.” Once the story went through goofball translate, however, the person’s name in the stolen version was changed to “butterfly.” This makes no sense at all, unless you speak German. If you do you’ll know that “Schmetterling” is German for butterfly, and “was zum Teufel” is German for “what the ****?”
I’m not going to give out a link to these stories and I would discourage you from seeking them out – more clicks would just give them more incentive to continue the bizarre things they are doing. We can’t really stop them either – as a relatively small media operation we don’t have the time or resources to scour the World Wide Web, track these bots down and get them to hold their plural horses. But I will share some of our favourite weirdisms that I’ve come across, to show you just how odd this stuff is.
A recent headline in our paper read Record Low Chum Salmon Count in West Vancouver. This headline was hilariously and infuriatingly changed to this: Record Number of Sidekick Salmon in West Vancouver.
So not only was the meaning of the headline completely reversed, but “chum” was changed to “sidekick.” At various other points in the article “chum” was replaced by “pals” and “buddy.”
Hey, I’m not your sidekick, pal. I’m not your pal, buddy. I’m not your buddy, chum....
But really? “Sidekick salmon”? One more time through that translation machine and they’ll be telling us all about the return of the “Luigi salmon.”
Another story we wrote about an orphaned bear cub captured in North Vancouver contained a report from a Black Bear Society member that the bear cub “had been seen weaving through traffic near Highway 1.”
This, in its altered state, turned into a report that “a panicked driver had been called to report that the little boy had been driving near Highway 1.”
A little bear running on the road becomes a little boy driving on the road? Imagine the traffic stop.
“Licence and registration please.”
That same article said that the name of our intrepid Black Bear Society member was “Christine Bear.” And though she works tirelessly trying to protect our ursine friends, I can assure you that she is not literally, by nature or surname, an actual Bear.
OK, that’s enough. It’s just weird, and more evidence that we live in strange times when it comes to information available to mass audiences.
In this age of “fake news” – and never forget that fake news used to be a useful descriptor before it was co-opted by General Custard down there in the White House – it is more important than ever that you get your news from sources you know and trust. You must read everything with a “gimlet eye,” or, as our translator friends would say, a “cocktail made of gin and lime juice eye.”
There are still people out there digging every day to bring truth to the public. They’ve earned the public trust, the right to be called “reporters.”
Trust the reporters you know. Just don’t trust those “plural reporters.”
Andy Prest is sports editor for the North Shore News. His humour/lifestyle column runs biweekly. firstname.lastname@example.org