“I loved it,” said one caller.
“You had me going until I got to the part about Pat Wallace piloting the plane,” said another.
“Best one yet,” said a third.
Even the mayor’s wife emailed in a quick note: “Your injection of Pete saying ‘it goes like stink’ makes the story!”
They were, of course, talking about Wednesday’s front-pager in The Daily News headlined On A Jet Plane: City’s New Aircraft Will ‘Send a message,’ Says Mayor.
It was our annual April 1 spoof, and we got plenty of calls and emails. The key with an April 1 story is to string it along until close to the end, then fess up. This takes a little work, but it stops being fun and starts being fake if you don’t craft it carefully.
Any amateur can make up a story to fool people, but the trick is to hook them for awhile, then let them off the hook. You inject a good dose of truth into the story to give an incredible situation some credibility.
So the airplane story — the concept for which originated with the mayor himself — started out playing it pretty straight. There were bargains to be had with corporate jets, given the poor economy south of the border. The mayor saw an opportunity, and decided to go shopping.
The information about the jets was factual. Second-hand Bombardier Challengers are on the market for around $19 million US. Used Global 5000s are plentiful right now, and can be had for $35 million an up. And Pat Wallace really is a former pilot.
By the end of the story, though, it was clear what we were up to. By the last sentence, we were in full confessional mode.
So the mayor didn’t actually go for a spin in a Challenger flown up from Detroit by a broker. (By the way, the scenario was partly based on Flying Phil Gaglardi and his test-spin of a Lear jet for the B.C. government many years ago.)
If Peter Milobar had taken a ride in a Challenger, though, he certainly would have found that it “goes like stink.”
So what was that Challenger doing parked on the runway at Fulton Field? Actually, it never got anywhere near our airport. One of our talented associate news editors, Catherine Litt, used her computer genius to super-impose a foto of a Challenger on a picture we’d set up with the mayor. Such a thing would never be countenanced with a real news story.
If you don’t tell people the truth, they get mad. Making people angry isn’t funny; it’s just bad business and bad faith. That’s why we enjoy the phone calls we get about our April Fool’s jokes — by the time people pick up the phone, they get it. They’re in on the joke instead of being the butt of the joke.