The folks at Animal Planet certainly have the country buzzing this week. Sunday night's airing of Mermaids:The New Evidence set a new ratings record for the channel even though it was all a hoax!

The shocker is that people actually bought the story that mermaids actually exist.  Animal Planet said this about the broadcast.  "We wanted people to approach the story with a sense of possibility and a sense of wonder," Charlie Foley, the show's executive producer, told ABC News. "Hopefully that's what 'Mermaids' allowed viewers to do . . . allowed them to suspend their disbelief."

After it aired, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement which was meant to clarify for perplexed viewers whether or not mermaids are real.

"The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species," the statement read. "But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That's a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists."

History does seem to repeat itself.  On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles, in his famous War Of The Worlds radio broadcast, had people believing that aliens were actually invading our planet.  There were reports of suicides because some thought it was a real event.
While thankfully nobody died as a result of the Animal Planet broadcast, it serves as a reminder to those of us in the business of broadcasting.  Our mediums are more powerful than we sometimes give them credit for.  People do rely on us for vital information.  It is a shame to waste such hard earned trust and credibility for the sake a few laughs.