On Feb. 24, 2016, then-President Obama published a post on SCOTUSblog. I thought it was pretty cool that the president of the United States would publish a post on blog, and doubly cool that he chose to do it on a legal blog. So, a month later, when April 1 rolled around, I picked up on that and published what I pretended was a guest post by the president, in honor of April 1, National Legal Technology Day.

I did not mean this as my entrée to the world of fake news. I thought I was sufficiently stretching credulity by suggesting that the leader of the free world had singled out this blog for a guest appearance. I coupled that with the fact that it was April Fools’ Day. And I didn’t really think anyone would buy into such a thing as National Legal Technology Day.

Like many bloggers, I’d done April Fools’ pranks before. In 2015, when former-lawyer Matt Homann’s Invisible Girlfriend was making headlines worldwide, I wrote about his spin-off, Intangible Lawyer. The year before that, I covered the joint announcement by Westlaw and LexisNexis that they were opening their databases to free public access.

But last year something unexpected happened. Several readers believed the post was real. In one case, a reader circulated the post among a group of the reader’s professional peers. That reader felt hurt that the incident had tarnished her reputation and she believed it had also tarnished mine. In fact, several readers complained that they had come to trust this blog and that I had disrespected their trust.

If anyone felt the fool after that, it was me. I’ve spent 14 years building up a readership for this blog and trying to build credibility with my readers. It makes no sense to throw that away for the sake of an ephemeral prank. I’m not always right in what I publish here, but I am sincere in my efforts to always try to get things right.

To any readers I offended last year, I apologize. From now on, I’m swearing off April Fools’ posts. And this time, that’s no joke.

  • avon

    I just attended a weekend conference. At the conclusion, one person rose to say how disappointed she was that not a single April Fool’s Day prank had been perpetrated by the organizers.
    I didn’t miss pranks, but I did realize that some folks really do. I think the LawSites blog should feel free to participate. But, now that I read (for the first time) last year’s post “by” President Obama, I didn’t even crack a grin. Not one thing in the entire post (which is a lot longer than necessary anyway) was any different from what Barack Obama would naturally say, and would naturally believe, and would perhaps even do here.

    As one who uses a flip phone (because it still works) and still has all my WordPerfect files (because they ought to remain openable forever, and perhaps will in the future), I’ll admit I may be quirky, but not ridiculous. And I’m not in the least surprised that someone – and I’d be incredulous if it were only one! – believed it was real news. As a survey last year showed, the readership isn’t as tech-advanced as the host!

    An April Fool’s Day prank has to transcend the merely old-fashioned or quirky. It needs to be funny that its content is believable yet untrue, so credulity must be stretched. I hope that can happen here next time.