In his brilliant book on modern journalism, Nick Davies demonstrates how PR firms manage to get spurious stories reported around the globe as no one has the time to check them out. I found a case of flat earth news in action when Insurance Times asked me to write this article on the apparent threat of burglars using social networking sites to plan their robberies. Insurer Legal & General had released a report co-authored with a celebrity “burglar” which had been covered by national newspapers and websites around the world. But despite the fact that Legal & General’s director of underwriting had been quoted widely discussing charging householders with teenagers more for their insurance, he couldn’t provide any evidence of this actually happening. Neither could the celebrity burglar, a veteran of numerous PR campaigns since he went straight 20 years ago. (What exactly are the CPD requirements for burglars?) And neither were any of the police forces I contacted or the Home Office aware of it either. It turns out the whole thing was the idea of Legal & General’s PR company, Fishburn Hedges.