I was doing research for a blog post and clicked on this article from early October 2021:
It was the subhead that caught my eye:
“The U.S. will begin phasing pennies out of circulation in 2022 and stop minting the coin in 2023”
Really? I thought.
I hadn’t heard or read about that anywhere – local or network news, my newspaper or online.
The Independent story wasn’t about phasing out pennies – the only other mention that subhead got was the last sentence in the article:
“…as the US will begin phasing pennies out of circulation in 2022 and stop minting the coin in 2023.”
I considered the source: the Independent.
It’s a British online newspaper established in 1986 as a national morning printed paper that went online-only in 2016. The website and mobile app claim a combined monthly reach of almost 23 million, and the Independent’s reporters have won a number of awards.
For quite some time I’ve figured that the Independent had good credibility, and I’ve quoted the newspaper in a number of my blog posts.
I figured the phasing-out-pennies subhead was credible and I wanted to know more, so I googled it.
And it didn’t turn up in any of my go-to sites – the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times or my local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, nothing on NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, or CNN.
This got me wondering about the veracity of the penny story.
The earliest article I found about doing away with pennies was this:
The website appears to be related to finances, and the subhead referenced an announcement from the “U.S. Mint.” The article talked about the “high cost of making new pennies” and “how stores will handle transactions without pennies,” and concluded with how eliminating pennies will benefit everyone:
“It is estimated the average person loses $38.92 in pennies throughout their lifetime. Change will be easier to count and manage, and purses will be lighter. No more looking under car seats, under couch cushions, sifting through the coin jar, etc.”
I thought it looked legit.
I reread the story. After the conclusion, there was a list of penny-related story links that I’d skipped the first time around.
This time I looked at them. And looked past them.
And saw this:
The story that had seemed credible to me was a joke, and I’d missed it.
Fool me once, shame on me.
At least I had some company.
The next reference to the demise of pennies was this June 7, 2021 article:
I thought it looked legit.
The Newswire website says it does “press release distribution” – for a fee – and whoever wrote this press release also referenced the U.S. Mint announcement, and used some of the same information from the above CashMoneyLife website.
The author even firmly assured us:
“Don’t worry – it’s not a Volkswagen-level April Fool’s joke. This is the real deal. And it’s arguably the biggest coin news since 1857 when Congress discontinued the half cent, which believe it or not, people weren’t thrilled about at the time.”
If this author’s source was the CashMoneyLife story, I guess the author didn’t get past that list of related links to see the punchline:
Fool that author once.
And apparently this author as well, on July 1, 2021:
I thought it looked legit.
Tally appears to be a debt consolidation website, so – money-related. The article’s author included interesting historical information about the penny, and good arguments about why it makes sense to discontinue it.
The author also mentioned that the “U.S. Mint”:
“…will officially phase out penny production in late 2022, and it’ll complete its last batch of penny production on April 1, 2023.”
Note the use of the word “officially.”
No suggestion of an April Fool’s joke here.
So in addition to the Independent, I’d found three sources for the penny demise story: CashMoneyLife, Newswire and Tally. The first identified as a joke, but the second and third stories were presented as fact.
My next stop was the official source – the U.S. Mint:
Specifically, to the “News” tab where I searched for “cease penny production” in the 2021 news releases:
Then I looked for any news release that mentioned “penny” in 2021:
Again, nothing about the penny’s demise.
So – what started as an April Fool’s joke then evolved in June into a genuine, this-is-not-a joke story, and was taken a step further in the July article as “officially.”
On September 23, 2021 the story appeared on CoinCommunity.com:
The link in the post brings us back to the original CashMoneyLife.com April Fool’s joke, but in no way indicates the story isn’t for real.
And that brings us to early October, and that Independent article’s author who saw something, somewhere about the demise of the penny, and repeated it as fact.
I offer this, though not as an excuse:
At first I hadn’t noticed that April 1, 2021 date on the CashMoneyLife.com website:
If I had noticed the date, I probably wouldn’t have assumed the article was an April Fool’s joke.
The first time I read that article, I didn’t look at the related links or past them, and didn’t see this:
How many articles have I not read all the way through? How many have I skimmed for relevant information, perhaps missing the most important information?
When it comes to the internet – to any news source…
I need to notch up my skepticism, and scale back my credulity.
How about you?