Deep inside the Guardian Education section today is the tale of how Graham Barnfield, a journalism lecturer at the University of East London, became an expert on “happy slapping” because a succession of journalists and PRs around the world failed to check their facts.

After a heavily-edited interview with him appeared on Tonight with Trevor McDonald, Barnfield says he was misquoted in an article on the BBC web site (this one, perhaps?) about “happy slapping”, allegedly saying that TV violence was to blame. From there

Within a week, Barnfield had drifted into a surreal world. Not only were his views being misquoted in the British, New Zealand, South African, German and Indian media without a single journalist bothering to check for accuracy, he was also being misrepresented as an expert on happy slapping, a title he had never claimed for himself.

…Although Barnfield had never suggested a causal link between TV and happy slapping, the press release sent out the night before the [Tonight] programme was shown on May 12 claimed he had, and it was on this that the BBC and other media based their stories.

There’s a lesson in there for both journalists and bloggers, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

Update: Barnfield’s version of events is on Spiked. His blog, the Loneliest Jukebox, has more details about his 15 minutes of fame.