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WSFA Sets Record Straight Over Onion Article About Alabama

WSFA is going on the offensive to clear up any misconceptions regarding a recent posting on the station’s facebook page making it appear as if reporter Jennifer Oravet believed an article in the satirical newspaper The Onion was real.

Friday, TVSpy reported Oravet appeared to believe an Onion article claiming the real-life public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton had encouraged the United States government to distance itself from the state of Alabama. At 12:22 p.m. on Thursday, Oravet posted to the station’s facebook page, “I contacted the PR firm listed in this article, they claim the article is “ficticious” and have no involvement in the alleged study.” See the screengrab of her post after the jump.

On its 4:00 p.m. news the same day, the Montgomery, AL, NBC affiliate aired a story where Oravet tells viewers The Onion story was fake.  Anchor Mark Bullock tossed to Oravet for her report saying, “Jenn we know this article has no news basis.”

Unfortunately for Oravet, her Noon facebook posting about the story was picked up by news outlets, including TVSpy, on Friday, casting doubt on whether she and the station knew the story was fake. Her original post has since been removed from facebook.

News director Scott Duff told TVSpy, “at no point did any of us at WSFA believe the story was real.” However, according to Duff, The Onion story prompted viewers to call the station thinking it was real. Duff said WSFA ran their story to ease viewers concerns. TVSpy reached out to Oravet asking for her side of the story on Friday but did not hear back until Monday morning. When pressed by TVSpy, Duff did agree the wording of the facebook posting could have been more clear in pointing out the station was in on the joke at the time.

Friday, the station posted this:

Last night we aired a news story about an article in The Onion about a PR firm suggesting that the U.S. part ways with Alabama. We posted a link to that article on this Facebook page explaining that we talked to the PR firm about their name being mentioned in the article, which we stated, on the post, was fictional. Numerous comments were written on the post, most of which were critical of WSFA for “… not knowing that The Onion is satire.” Many of the comments were personal about the reporter of our story. For that reason, we have removed the post from this Facebook page. We suspect that most of the comments were made based solely on the headline of the Onion article, and not on the news story we did on the air, nor the web version of or story, which obviously states that we know The Onion is satire. We urge you to read our article on WSFA.com.

Duff told TVSpy he called because he wanted to make clear that his station and his reporter never believed the Onion story was real adding, “I’m very proud to work with Jennifer Oravet.”

Here’s the screengrab of Oravet’s facebook post from Thursday February 7:

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