ABC News Did Not Run a Story About a Fake Photographer, Despite a Comedian's Claims

On March 15th, we reposted a YouTube video of a comedian who claimed to have tricked ABC News into running a fake story about him. Well, it appears that the real ones who were duped were this writer and the comedian's fans, because the actual news story wasn't about the comedian at all.

Background 

In the video in question, Aussie comedian, Lewis Spears, pretends to be a famous fashion photographer and manages to trick ABC's Lana Zak into doing an impromptu photo shoot in front of LA's famous Pink Wall. Spears' video is not what it seems, though, because he claimed that the reporter was there to do a story about him. At the beginning of the video, which can be seen here, Spears says this:

In this video I will show you how I tricked American news network, Nightline, into doing a fake story on a fake photographer, and broadcasting that fake story nationwide

As you can probably tell from the video above, Zak's actual story was about Matty Mo, self-described "Most Famous Artist", who seems to be more of a marketing whizz than an artist, but who am I to judge? The report is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece, so if you haven't already watched it, please do so — if not for Zak's reportage, then for Spears' three seconds of fame, which he rather skillfully uses to create a fake story within a fake story.

Lana Zak's Response

Because of the way that Spears presented his story, I actually couldn't find ABC's original video before I posted that first article. It was actually brought to my attention by Zak, herself, in the comments section. She had this to say:

This is amazing! I am fascinated in how meta-this has gotten. I’m Lana, the reporter in this story. The report that Lewis Spears is celebrating as his “hoax” actually begins with a quote from the true subject of my report with these words, “That’s a key takeaway, that the internet is not real, surprise!” Here’s what is true: Spears did indeed appear on camera for 3 seconds by saying he flew nearly 24 hours to take photos at this famous Instagram spot. (Which by all counts is true.) We never use any name or describe him as a famous photographer, in all honestly he was just one of hundreds of people taking photos there. He claims he “tricked“ us into running a fake story about him, but the story is never about him and misses the point of my report about our Selfie-obsessed society in which I explore the idea that people can become what they say they are just by saying it.

But here’s where Spears seems to go from a satirist to a bully, if he did in fact watch my piece and understand it, he appears to be lying to his viewers about what we reported. Our story, which we worked on for months before Spears bumped into us is a critical look at Instagram-obsession and a profile of an actual performance artist called, “Matty Mo: the most famous artist.” I stand by my reporting and my hard working team. You can watch our actual Nightline piece here and make up your own mind. And Lewis, if you didn’t actually watch our full piece, and someone just told you about it check it out. I like to hope you’d correct yourself rather than be the kind of guy who would falsely brag to his buddies about how far he got with a girl, regardless of a thought to her reputation, just because he thinks it makes him seem cooler, or funnier.

Lewis Spears' Response

I reached out to Spears, asking for a comment. I pointed out the fact that his statement from the video — quoted above — isn't accurate and that he edited the video in such a way as to make it look like the report was about him and not Matt Mo. This was his reply, verbatim:

It’s good to see ABC Nightline doing some research on a story for a change, even if it is after publishing that story. I would like to correct the record and say that while Lana: Did do a full interview with a fake character without confirming their identity, Did pose for photoshoot taken on a 200 dollar Canon Powershot thinking it would be in Vogue Australia, Did take a bite out of an onion she was handed from a strangers pocket, And, Did not do even the bare minimum amount of research (like Googling the name Clive Palmer and finding out he is actually a very fat politician and not me.) At least only a few seconds of that made it to television. Which makes all of the above MUCH less embarrassing… Right?

I pressed him — asking again why he presented the video in the way that he did, but he has not responded.

Final Thoughts

This whole situation has certainly given me food for thought as it appears as though I have made myself part of the "fake news" cycle.

What do our readers think? Was Spears conducting some sort of meta-commentary about why we shouldn't believe everything we see on the internet, or was he playing fast loose with the facts by pandering to a specific audience with the hope of gaining more attention? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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3 Comments

Jeff Walsh's picture

He's about as honest with his part " I tricked American news network, Nightline, into doing a fake story on a fake photographer," as they are with "in all honestly he was just one of hundreds of people taking photos there." It's pretty damn clear from his video that she was eating up his story to the point where she bit the onion. On the other side, they used a 3 second clip which doesn't equate to any of his claims. I'm more inclined to think that they were putting footage from everyone they could find interesting, which included his fake persona, and since they never intended to tell any one individuals "story," there wasn't really a deep need for fact checking every little piece of info. They record him being wild as he was, so no lie there as he was in fact acting that way, and then later in editing they look for clips that tell their narrative.

They created fake news by slanting an entire piece of commentary with little fact checking, and he created fake news by lying about the level of which he "tricked," Nightline. It's just a cycle of hot garbage.

Rod Kestel's picture

I had often, cowled in the slumberous heavy air,
Closed my inanimate lids to find it real,
As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
And painted roofs, the high snows glimpsed at the back,

- Ern Malley

In the long line of elaborate hoaxes, this is a beauty. Thanks your lucky whassits you're not Max Harris, founder of The Angry Penguins.

Foto Toad's picture

Perhaps if Fstoppers stuck to their original mission and didn't repost the torrent of low quality tripe that fills the internet these days then they wouldn't need to repost corrective reposts of other news reposts.
Stick to the basics, less is more, quality beats quantity.
To quote their mission statement:

Fstoppers is an online community aimed at *educating and inspiring* photographers, videographers, and creative professionals. Started in 2010 by founders Patrick Hall and Lee Morris, Fstoppers has grown into one of the *top resources for photography lighting, gear reviews, business tips, behind the scenes, and industry news*