A cautionary tale for journalists and editors, via The Associated Press.
A Norwegian journalist who had interviewed the likes of Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey faked a two-hour talk with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, a company spokesman in Norway said.
It's perhaps a bit surprising that Bjoern Benkow got the four-page piece, "Big Bill," past his editors and into Norwegian magazine Mann and Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, especially given the way he scored the interview. Benkow said he talked with Gates on a two-hour commercial flight in Europe.
What luck! He got a seat on a commercial airplane next to the world's richest person. That reminds me of the time I sat next to Gates on Sound Transit bus route 545 on our way over the 520 floating bridge. Good times.
Some of the fake gems in Benkow's tale: Gates never carries more than a dime in his pocket and makes $1 bets with wife Melinda French Gates.
Gates' personal assistant, Craig Beilinson, informed Microsoft Norway that the interview never took place and that Gates did not fly in a commercial carrier at the time the journalist allegedly met him, according to Eirik Lae Solberg, spokesman for the company's Norwegian unit.
The editor of Mann, Knut Christian Moeng, said the monthly is printing a retraction in its August issue, apologizing for the article.
But Olof Brundin, a spokesman for Aftonbladet, said the newspaper was convinced the interview had taken place.
"This is a very respected reporter ... with a very good record," Brundin said. "There is no reason whatsoever for us to doubt him."