April Is the Foolest Month

Media members to the world: teehee!

Ah, April Fool’s Day. The day when normally sorta-staid members of the Fourth Estate get to put their feet up, shed their serious suits, and, with a collective guffaw, let their inner imps out for a romp. (Teehee! Hey, public—you’ve been Punk’d!)

April 1’s particular strain of “gotcha!” journalism, when done right (and even when done wrong), can be seriously epic…but—beware, all you Jon Stewart wannabes out there—journalism and humor don’t always mix well. And the vast majority of today’s pranks—as the vast majority of most April Fool’s shenanigans, year in and year out—have gone either too far with their jokes…or not far enough. (Seriously: who, in the end, should that dubiously hoaxy Politico memo leave feeling foolish?)

As Christopher Marlowe* once wrote, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” With that in mind, and taking a cue from New York magazine’s Approval Matrix, here’s your at-a-glance guide to some of the more high-profile of today’s stunts: the Guardian’s shift to Twitter, the marriage between a California Congresswoman and Osama bin Laden, John Yoo’s war-crimes arrest, Google’s Autopilot, the Tribune’s direct-to-brain news delivery device, Congressional calisthenics, politicians taking a stand for animals wronged by sports, and Chris Cillizza taking on a new sport besides politics. Oh, and! Global warming itself being proven a hoax.

* Actually, it was Shakespeare who wrote that! Teehee! April Fool’s!

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.