16 Jan 2014
From David Gaughran:
A juicy story broke last week, the kind that makes savvy sub-editors salivate over potential Twitter-bait headlines.
It had been discovered that Hitler’s pre-war memoir Mein Kampf was a digital bestseller, leading to a global bout of media hand-wringing and pontificating. One excitable commentator even suggested it was a sign the second Holocaust was imminent.
The only problem with this story is that it’s not true. At all.
At the Chicago News Bureau, back in its heyday as a reputable news service, there was a rule editors passed along to wet-behind-the-ears reporters: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” That meant take nothing for granted. Do the legwork. Find out the truth.
Who are the journalists too lazy to actually do the work of researching whether the story was true? They include Gerald Lynch at Gizmodo, the anonymous writer at the Huffington Post, Taylor Berman at Gawker, Lily Hay Newsman at Slate, Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, Alison Flood at the Guardian, Hector Tobar at the Los Angeles Times, and of course the Daily Mail.
This particular edition of Mein Kampf wasn’t selling at all until October 2013, when the publisher dropped the price to 99c – which is hardly surprising given the number of competing editions out there, many of which are available for free. According to KND’s tracker, Mein Kampf peaked in the charts on 11 January 2014, at #592 in the Kindle Store – selling around 200 copies a day.
Mein Kampf wasn’t a “digital bestseller” until the media made it one.