Running Down a Rumor

It was a spectacular news story, the kind that in more innocent times used to be called a "scoop." The Soviet Union's Leonid Brezhnev was coming to Boston to be treated for leukemia, or so announced the Boston Globe earlier this month. Trouble was, the Russian leader never showed up. Last week it became clear that the Globe had been the victim of another grand old journalistic tradition: the hoax.

To fool a first-rate newspaper like the Globe, a hoaxer has to create a story that does not seem entirely implausible. In the case of...

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