West Virginia

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

Dry humor makes the point. Today’s precipitation prompted a friend of mine to ask yesterday, “Are you ready for this year's ‘Storm of the Century’?” About 50 million consumers bracing for an anticipated blizzard will probably bring a flurry of activity to e-commerce marketers.

The multibillion-dollar data brokerage industry, a growing force in online marketing, is drawing intensified government scrutiny. On Wednesday, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, opened an extensive investigation of nine leading information brokers. Because Americans now conduct much of their daily business online, the senator said he was concerned that “an unprecedented amount” of personal, medical and financial information about people could be collected, mined and sold, to the potential detriment of consumers. “An ever-increasing percentage of their lives will be available for download, and the digital footprint they will inevitably leave behind will become more specific

I just finished a splendid book, "The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick, about how a mediocre painter named Han Van Meegeren painted a series of "Vermeers" in the 1930s and 1940s and conned the European art establishment into believing they were real. One of his forgeries was the crown jewel in the collection of the world's greatest art thief, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. It was a delicious hoax.

When I put the book down and started looking for news stories to pin this column to, I found August was an extraordinary month for hoaxes, fakes, scams, scandals and pranks. Let's start with Wine Spectator.

Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of Wine Spectator, is pissed. For starters:

Wine Spectator learned yesterday that, for the first time in the 27-year history of our Restaurant Awards program, a fictitious restaurant has entered its wine list for judging. To orchestrate his publicity-seeking scam, Robin Goldstein created a fictitious restaurant in Milan, Italy, called Osteria L'Intrepido, and then submitted a menu and wine list to Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards as a new entry in 2008. The wine list earned an Award of Excellence, the most basic of our three award levels. Goldstein revealed his elaborate hoax at a meeting in Oregon last week. He is now crowing about the fraud on his own Web site. The story has been picked up in the blogosphere, and now Wine Spectator would like to set forth the actual facts of the matter.

"Facts of the matter?"

Mr. Matthews, you were bamboozled. Hornswoggled. Thimblerigged. Flimflammed. Your awards program is a deeply flawed business model.

Gotcha!

A Media Tragedy of Tectonic Proportions Jan. 10, 2006: Vol. 2, Issue No. 2 IN THE NEWS Donald Dawson, 97, Dies; Master of Truman Whistle-Stop Donald S. Dawson, who as a presidential aide marshaled Harry S. Truman's crucial whistle-stop tour in the 1948 election campaign and who later had a long career as a Washington lawyer, died on Sunday at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 97. —Wolfgang Saxon, The New York Times, Dec. 29, 2005 Joy Turns to Heartbreak as 12 Miners Confirmed Dead Only One Lives as Initial Reports of Multiple Survivors Prove Wrong TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. (Jan. 4) -

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