An object lesson in the value of skepticism

There’s a reason every journalist in town reads David Brauer over at He does a good job of covering the Twin Cities media. Right now, the Braublog post that deserves a look is “How did Blake Mastin fool two Twin Cities newsrooms?”

It’s the story of the Minnesota man who claimed to have invented a cap could stop the gusher from the maybe sort of almost tentatively fixed BP oil well in the Gulf. Actually, Brauer’s piece is not so much about Mastin as it is about the journalists he apparently hoodwinked. And there, but for the grace of God and a few skeptical editors, might have gone more of us.

Brauer nicely reconstructs the failure of the blowout preventers at KSTP-TV and KARE 11, and works in a couple of good lines besides (“But in less than a day, the story had sprung more leaks than a BP well”; “Getting a BP comment wasn’t easy; the oil giant obviously has bigger fish to clean.”)

The story offers a cautionary tale that should be helpful to both providers and consumers of news. (Too bad Brauer uses “reference” as a verb. None of us is perfect.)