April Fool’s in the news

This morning I woke up to a report on BBC Radio 4 describing how pensioners may soon be expected to prove a certain level of fitness in order to claim their pension. One suggestion was to install treadmills in post offices around the country – elderly people would have to walk for three or four minutes on the treadmill before they would be allowed to pick up their pension.

The report then included some vox pops. Young people seemed to be fully supportive of this idea. One girl said that if police officers have to prove their fitness, then elderly people should too. Another said something along the lines of: “Old people have worked hard for their pension so they should make sure they stick around long enough to enjoy it.”

In my still-sleepy state, I thought: “Are these people mad?!” My own grandparents are relatively fit for their age but many older people struggle with health problems. And besides, why should they prove their fitness to claim money they’ve worked their whole lives for?!

And then I looked at my phone and saw the date: April 1st. Good one, Radio 4.

While April Fool’s Day has long been an opportunity for people to play pranks on each other, media organisations have also taken on the tradition and, over the years, have produced some rather humorous reports.

Today, the Guardian has an article about Downing Street calling in Shaun Ryder, lead singer of the Happy Mondays, to be a special advisor on social class, and to help banish ‘Pasty-gate’ by launching a T-shirt campaign entitled ‘We’re all eating this together’. The newspaper also conveniently has a photo gallery of celebrities wearing a range of t-shirts from the campaign (with apologies to Sport Relief 2012).

But maybe the best is the 1957 report by Panorama, which told us that an unusually mild winter had resulted in a bumper spaghetti harvest on the Swiss-Italian border, and the disappearance of the spaghetti weevil. The video sparked a barrage of questions to the BBC, with viewers asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. The BBC replied: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato juice and hope for the best.” Apparently, only a select few journalists at the BBC knew about this package before it went on air. And no doubt the voice of Richard Dimbleby gave viewers a confusing sense of authority. It seems totally ridiculous now, but would you have believed it at the time?

So, while the rest of the year may seem all doom and gloom. April Fool’s is a great opportunity for journalists to show their humorous side. I just hope other people get the joke!


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