New York Times gets meta-rickrolled

March 28, 2008

astley2.jpgYou may have read recently about an Internet phenomenon called “rickrolling ,” which sends unsuspecting Web users to YouTube videos of Rick Astley’s ’80s pop single “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The New York Times wrote up the supposedly hilarious phenomenon on Monday, referencing a prank that purportedly interrupted a women’s basketball game:

“Two men on the sidelines surprised the crowd by blasting the British singer Rick Astley’s 1987 hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up” through the gym, while one, dressed as a look-alike in Mr. Astley’s signature trench coat, lip-synched and mugged to the music: a popular prank known as rickrolling.”

Unfortunately for the Times, it was the paper itself that got rolled. The Times originally reported that the pranksters interrupted the game and bewildered the crowd. Turns out it was just the result of some clever video editing, leading to a correction on Thursday:

An article on Monday about a popular Internet video prank known as rickrolling referred incorrectly to its use during a March 8 women’s basketball game at Eastern Washington University, based on information provided by Pawl Fisher, a student; Davin Perry, who shoots game videos for the university; and Dave Cook, its sports information director. The stunt, which involves a person lip-synching the 1980s hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up” while dressed as the British singer Rick Astley, was performed before the start of four separate basketball games, and the pranksters distilled the performances into a YouTube video. The March 8 game, between Eastern Washington and Montana State, was not interrupted by a performance.

Local TV station KHQ flagged the error, noting: “After confirming the video was a fake, KHQ did not run the story. The New York Times did.”

And what does Mr. Astley himself think about this? The LA Times blog Web Scout managed to track him down.

“Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it,” he said. “If I was a young kid now looking at that song, I’d have to say I’d think it was pretty naff, really.”

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