iPhone and iPod fever encourages journalists to stick an 'i' in front of pretty much any word in a headline in search of a few clicks.

And so last week's story about a man who had his over-sized thumbs surgically altered to help him control his beloved iPhone spawned countless 'iThumb' headlines on various websites around the world (not here, I might add).

The North Denver News first reported the tale of Thomas Martel, who had apparently always struggled with the small keys on portable devices such as the Palm Treo and the BlackBerry, but the iPhone was the device that finally convinced him to act.

"Sure, the procedure was expensive, but when I think of all the time I save by being able to use modern handhelds so much faster, I really think the surgery will pay for itself in 10 to 15 years. And what it's saving me in frustration – that's priceless."

A Dr Robert Fox Spars was credited for the breakthrough surgery, with the North Denver News describing him as a pioneer in the field of plastic surgery for workplace efficiency. Except the whole thing was a hoax drawn up as a piece of 'social commentary'.

Now, I'm all for a good hoax – I'm partial to a bit of technology nonsense on April Fools' Day, for instance. And you have to ask serious questions of anyone who buys a story about a man willing to shave a few millimetres off his thumbs, or of a doctor who's able to devise and execute a complicated piece of surgery in the six weeks since the iPhone was released in the US. But was this just a cynical attempt to attract some cheap traffic?

"In an era when fake news, like Paris Hilton, has crowded out real news and public debate, the lesson is that sceptical consumption of information, whether from the North Denver News, the New York Times, or the National Review, is a must," contends North Denver News' Editor Guerin Lee Green.

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