The independent news organization of Duke University

Web sites set snares for fools

Elvis is alive and the government is about to shut down Krzyzewskiville-no foolin'. Unless it happens to be April Fool's Day and you're looking at the University's web site or the Duke Basketball Report.

In honor of the April 1 holiday, the Duke News Service superimposed Elvis Presley into the pictures that normally appear on the University's homepage. With this addition, Elvis was present at President Nan Keohane's inauguration, a field hockey game and several other places.

While seemingly few students actually reported that they noticed the King in the web site pictures, staff at the Duke News Service were proud of their prank.

"We thought it was so cool that it would make a good April Fool's joke," said Dennis Meredith, assistant vice president and director of the Office of Research Communications. "Nan thought it was a real honor to have Elvis at her inauguration."

The idea for the joke originally came from Vincent Budnick, a systems administration analyst in the Office of Information Technology, while he was superimposing images of Elvis into pictures for fun, said Meredith.

The choice of Elvis for the superimposed images was simple, Meredith said. "'Cause Elvis is cool. He's the King. And Duke doesn't accept anything less than the King."

The Duke Basketball Report, a privately run web site which features up-to-date basketball information, is frequented by many Duke fans.

The site also puts on an annual April Fool's prank, and this year it created a phony story claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency was shutting down K-ville as an environmental hazard.

"Each year we try to do an April Fool's joke that knocks people for a loop," said DBR co-director Boswell, a 1980 Duke graduate who prefers the one-word moniker. "So each year we try to do something that's a bit realistic, something that actually might be true."

This year, the site creators decided to use K-ville because it is one of the "great, hallowed traditions at Duke.... We knew it would touch a nerve if some government bureaucrats came in and tried to interfere with it," Boswell said.

Along with the fake press release the creators made a link to the "actual" EPA letter that had been sent to Executive Vice President Tallman Trask.

And although this year's idea originally came from his wife, Boswell said, it is in keeping with other April Fool's pranks the site has pulled.

Last year, DBR created a mock-up of The Herald-Sun of Durham's web site, and posted a story claiming that Bill Guthridge had retired and Dean Smith was coming back as his replacement.

The story was so widely believed that wire services in Iowa and Missouri picked it up, and the real Herald-Sun was forced to run an announcement about their lack of involvement with the prank.

This year's prank was more confusing to people than anything else, said Boswell, with people writing in asking why DBR had fallen for such a prank.

"A couple-and these are probably the funniest reactions-told us what idiots we were for falling for an April Fool's joke," he said. "We had to tell them we were the ones that came up with it."


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