The last summer of a true hero
Jeffrey Archer joins the blogosphere

Faking it

Is Norway about to get its very own Jayson Blair? Earlier this week Bill Gates denied that he had ever been on the flight where Norwegian freelance journalist Björn Benkow claims he met and interviewed the Microsoft founder – an interview he later sold to Aftonbladet and Mann. Then Michael Schumacher’s press spokeswoman said there was no way that Benkow’s interviews with the Formula1 legend in Dagbladet could be genuine.

66 year old Benkow is an experienced journalist who has interviewed scores of celebrities and published a number of books, but as far back as 1992 Margaret Thatcher denied both having ever been interviewed by Benkow and that she had attended the private dinner where Benkow claimed to have conducted the interview. With all his experience, Benkow can hardly be excused for being a wannabe hack who got carried away and did something stupid, and the whole story is starting to sound increasingly implausible as the journalists on his trail talk to more celebrities who deny ever having met the man who has published big exclusive interviews with them.

It’s still silly season in Norway so this story is bound to get a lot of exposure: insiders are already calling for heads to roll. Personally I must admit it always saddens me to read this kind of story and in some respects I hope the accusations prove untrue – both for the sake of the media’s credibility and because it would be such a tragic end to a long and prolific media career. But: “If you do something like this you also deserve the negative exposure you get,” says Per Edgar Kokkvold of the Norwegian Press Association: “To fabricate interviews is one of the vilest and most unacceptable things a journalist can do.”


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