The news business, as we all know, can be a cyclical beast. On a daily basis fluctuations abound, but at a macro level the quantity and quality of stories ebbs and flows on a rather predictable basis. Mid-summer usually marks a lull in the proceedings – and is more commonly known as the "silly season".
Stark evidence of this calming influence can be found today on the front page of the BBC News website. Under the title of "Has missing aristocrat been found in New Zealand", the BBC reports a story that, by all accounts, has absolutely zero credibility. If it wasn't mid August then this would probably never make it to press.
The story concerns the potential whereabouts of Lord Lucan – a member of Britain's aristocracy who famously disappeared in 1974 after the murder of his children's nanny in London. The search for Lucan has reached an almost mythical status in the British media. Perhaps encouraged by the outing of Fake Steve Jobs in the US, the BBC decided it was time to unmask the true Lord Lucan. Good idea – except their story almost certainly does not do this. Judge for yourselves from the excerpts below:
A Briton living in New Zealand in an old car, with a pet possum, has denied he is missing aristocrat Lord Lucan. Neighbors became convinced homeless Roger Woodgate was the vanished peer because of his "upper-class" English accent and "military bearing". But he says he is a former photographer who happened to move to New Zealand in the same year Lord Lucan went missing.
Neighbor Margaret Harris said she became convinced he was Lord Lucan after seeing a picture of the peer in an old magazine. She told TVNZ: "I spotted this piece and I thought 'oh my God, don't tell me that's who he is? I'm sure that is who he is because he is trying to make out he's a very poor man; poor my foot."
Woodgate, however, quickly denied he was hiding a secret identity. He was, he said, a former photographer who once worked for the Ministry of Defense and left the UK five months before Lord Lucan went missing. Mr. Woodgate also pointed out he was five inches shorter than Lord Lucan and, at 62, is 10 years younger than the aristocrat would be now.
[The full BBC article can be found here.]