Student Newspaper April Fools’ Story on Meryl Streep Tricks Readers … in August

A spoof story about Meryl Streep run in a student newspaper’s April Fools’ edition more than four months ago suddenly picked up social media steam last week — and tricked some readers and journalists into thinking it was true.

The gist of the tall tale with long legs: Oscar-winning screen legend Streep was planning to take a break from acting and instead serve as a visiting instructor at Brandon University, a mid-sized school in the Canadian province of Manitoba.

The article first appeared last April in The Quill, Brandon’s student paper, renamed The Swill in honor of April Fools’ Day. The faux facts in the piece are presented very straightforwardly. According to the Swill, Streep would teach a pair of courses — Theatre and Identity and Twentieth-Century American Drama.

As reporter Karina Doli shared, “There have been talks among members of administration to find larger classroom settings for her two courses, including conversations about using the Healthy Living Centre gymnasium or the Westman Centennial Auditorium. However, Ms. Streep is said to have rejected the idea of enlarging the class-sizes, preferring to keep both classes under thirty students. … Ms. Streep selected BU due to the small class sizes and the tight-knit community, but also in large part because she is preparing for a role in an upcoming film, where she will play a middle-aged woman living in an agrarian, mostly-religious community.”

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While the story received little attention upon its initial posting, it suddenly went mini-viral last week. According to the Brandon Sun, without warning, “people who failed to notice its publication date posted links to it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. … At least two national reporters based in Ottawa tweeted it out.” One example of a mistaken journalist is below.

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The university was subsequently forced to confirm Streep would not be teaching there after all. Quill editors have also added a parenthetical note at the start of the piece, confirming its fictitiousness. A two-word summary of the note: April Fools!

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