Layers of fact checkers and editors. New hotness: “There was this one time, in band camp …” Yet another big, splashy mainstream media story has collapsed, although the damage from New York Magazine’s tall tale of a teen-genius stock traders and the New York Post’s follow-up is entirely limited to the two publications’ reputations. Jessica Pressler wrote this weekend that Mo Islam, a 17-year-old student, had amassed a $72 million fortune during his participation in a high-school trading club, apparently without asking some basic questions about how a minor could trade and how anyone could have possibly made that much money in such a short period of time.
The answer: It’s all a hoax. The New York Observer did the fact-checking that neither NY Magazine or the Post bothered to do, and found at the center a couple of teens who made up rumors out of whole cloth:
Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the “’high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”
And now it turns out, the real number is … zero.