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Bug #38523 closed:unresolved

Less than Meets the Eye

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This bug appeared in a news report published by Denver Post on Jun 21, 2013 by Andrea L. Fisher. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Other

Writing in the Denver Post, reporter Andrea L. Fisher says that “in Japan, as much as one-third of elementary students admit to licking their classmates' eyes. It is called eye licking or “worming,' more accurately called, oculolinctus.” She explains that eye licking “has become a fetish among elementary children and adolescents to express intimacy between young lovers.” Then she asks the poignant question, “But why? What would possess two people to lick each other's eyes?”

Perhaps a better question would have been: Is this really a trend among Japanese school kids? That’s the question Tokyo-based scribe, Mark Schreiber asked and the answer he got was, well, eye-popping.

Writing in the somewhat obscure Number 1 Shimbun, Schreiber pulls the lid back on this widespread eye licking tale to reveal it as nothing more than a sordid hoax. He says that “it was not especially difficult to at least cast doubts on the sweeping claim that large numbers of Japanese adolescents were suffering from an epidemic of tongue-induced pink eye.” 

Our urban myth-busting man in Japan no doubt dug deep into his reporter’s bag of tricks to get to the bottom of this story. Using some sort of journalistic communications device (perhaps a telephone) he went so far as to contact a couple of Japanese ophthalmological associations, a school clinicians’ organization and other medical professionals. “None of them had the faintest idea of what I was talking about,” Schreiber says. That all makes me think there is less to this “trend” than meets the eye.


(Portions of this post have appeared in related MediaBugs reports filed by JT Cassidy.)


Supporting Information:

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):

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):

Faking It (Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard); In the Shadow of Doubt (Toronto Sun)




JT Cassidy has contacted Denver Post

Bug History

Aug 19, 2013 6:11 pm Open JT Cassidy
Aug 20, 2013 8:01 am Open: Under Discussion JT Cassidy
Nov 01, 2013 9:01 am Closed: Unresolved admin

Discussion Leave a comment


That should be: "Andrea L. Fisher O.D."

Aug 20, 2013 8:03 am

I think this makes the 35th bug report I’ve posted about the same error repeated over and over by countless news outlets, as noted by Mark Schreiber in Lick This(the article linked to in the post above).

MediaBugs is not only a great tool for fixing these errors (9 out of the 35 have been fixed so far) but it also makes a handy place to kind of catalog these false reports by news organizations who have helped spread a hoax heard around the world.

In his article Schreiber asks "does anybody really care?" I think the responses to these bug reports, or lack thereof, will provide part of the answer to that question. I hope they can also help paint a better picture of the media landscape today where these kind of tall tales, be they about hot Japanese trends that are not or something even more potentially dangerous, can creep across the pages of our newspapers (and maybe the dynamics that fuel them in the first place).

There are still lots of similar stories out there and I hope others will be interested in bearing the torch and filing additional reports on this or any other cockeyed story they may lay eyes on.

Aug 20, 2013 8:04 am

Ironic that a site that strives for accuracy by others would refer to Andrea L. Fisher as a Denver Post "reporter" when she is clearly identified an optometrist.

Didn't even need one of those "telephone" devices to figure that one out.

Aug 20, 2013 8:41 am

@bigyaz That's a good point. I did try to correct that oversight in my first comment above but I guess I fell short of the mark. Thanks for the clarification.

Aug 20, 2013 9:47 am

Dr. Fisher is also clearly not a Denver Post health reporter or columnist. The Post notes at the top of the column that the piece is "by Andrea L. Fisher, O.D., For The Morning Journal," where it was first published.
As always the mistakes are mine, not MediaBugs. MediaBugs provided the bug report form but I alone filled it out.

Sep 01, 2013 6:19 pm