“Japanese primary school students involved in eyeball licking,” screamed the headline on a July 11 National Student (NS) article. The story goes on to tell the tale of a bizarre new craze that school kids across Japan are just mad about, licking each other’s eyeballs. It’s a tale that has been repeated in countless print and online news mediums across the globe and unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there may not be a lick of truth to it.
Writing in the relatively obscure, Number One Shinbun, Tokyo-based journalist, Mark Schreiber, tracks the eye licking story to its rather dubious origins. Shortly after the publication of the Number One article, the famed urban legend debunking site, Snopes.com, published a post verifying Schreiber's claims that all the talk of an eyeball licking trend in Japan was essentially baseless.
Since the Number One story hit the net, a number of news outlets, including the Telegraph, Huffington Post, Gawker, Medical Daily, and more have amended their stories in light of Schreiber’s findings. Unfortunately the majority of newspapers, magazines, etc. who have reported on this trend that never was have let their stories stand untouched.
While NS is essentially a student journal, I hope it can take this opportunity to serve as the teacher to those publications that have turned a blind eye to the truth. I look forward to NS joining the handful of more responsible news organizations who, working with an eye to accuracy, have held their stories up to the light of day to expose whatever errors may lie within.
If you want a real eye-opener, take a look at "Lick This!" by Mark Schreiber and read how the tale of a fake fad made in Japan made its way into the pages of newspapers, magazines, and more all around the world.
Also see: "In the Public Eye" on Snopes.com
Related MediaBugs reports (the same error repeated over and over again):
Eye of the Beholder (Mommyish); Look Twice! (Morning Journal); Less than Meets the Eye (Denver Post); Shangheyed (Business Insider); Exploding a Media Myth (TNT); Poke in the Eye (The New Age); Weird Science (Science World Report); A Funny Sounding Story (AOL News); Fox Takes Eye off Eyeball Story (Fox 29 News, Philadelphia) Eye Network Loses Sight of Facts (CBS Atlanta); In the Shadow of Doubt (Toronto Sun); The Hot Trend That's Not (PIX 11 News, New York); Houston We Have a Problem (KRIV-TV, Fox 26 in Houston, Texas); The Spread (Houston Chronicle); Seeing Eye to Eye (Huffington Post/UK edition); Eye Witless News Report (ABC News); UPI Out of Focus (United Press International); Another Code Brown! (Medical Daily); Entertaining... Licks Telling the News (ABC2 News, WMAR-TV, Baltimore); Didn't Get the Memo (New Zealand Herald); Here is the Thing (MSN News Canada) Fatal Error (CTV News Canada); Time to Correct? (Time Magazine); More Than Meets the Eye (New York Post); A Cock-eyed Story (New York Daily News); Faking It (Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard); Bucking the Trend That Wasn't (The Times of India); If You Can't Lick 'Em Join 'Em (Fox News); Not a Lick of Truth (The Telegraph); Eye Network Lacks Nose for Fishy Stories (CBS News); Calling Out the Daily Caller (The Daily Caller); Code Brown (Medical News Today); Gawk at This! (Gawker); Not a Thing (The San Francisco Chronicle); Less Than Meets the Eye (The Guardian); A Blind Eye to the Truth (Huffington Post); Falling for a Fake Story... (The Washington Times)
Fixed/Updated (in abc order by news organization)
Shangheyed (Business Insider); Gawk at This! (Gawker); A Blind Eye to the Truth (Huffington Post); Another Code Brown! (Medical Daily); Code Brown (Medical News Today); Exploding a Media Myth (TNT); Not a Lick of Truth (The Telegraph)
Disappeared (story scrubbed clean off reporting news organization's website):