Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Halloween hoax or not, letter creates frightfully big stir

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FARGO, N.D. – Although many consider it a hoax, the story about a woman who told a Fargo morning radio show she plans to hand out letters instead of candy this Halloween has generated buzz.

On Tuesday, the Y-94 Morning Playhouse broadcast the voice of a woman they called "Cheryl" who said she wanted to hand out letters to obese children in lieu of candy.

"I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight," she said on Y-94. "I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ‘cause all the other kids are doing it,’ she said.

Y-94 officials then posted the letter – which they said was emailed to the station – on its Facebook page.

"It takes a village to raise a child," the letter states. "And "you (sic) child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children …"

Some local media outlets took notice, reposting the letter on their own Facebook pages and broadcasting reports on it.

By Wednesday morning – also the anniversary of Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast that set off a nationwide panic – national news outlets such as the Today Show, Fox News, Good Morning America, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times released stories about "Cheryl’s" letter.

But few are convinced there is a "Cheryl," especially faithful listeners of the popular Y-94 morning show hosted by Rat, Zero and Maggie.

Y-94 stirred up national attention in September 2012 with its bit on "Donna the Deer Lady." In less than 24 hours, 2.4 million YouTube viewers clicked on "Donna" telling Rat and Zero that she thought deer crossing signs encourage deer to cross the road rather than warn drivers.

Like Donna, Cheryl’s last name has not been released.

"JT," Y-94’s programming director, did not return messages from the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead on Wednesday.

John Austin, a member of the Chris John and Jane in the Morning show on 95.1 FM, has worked at Y-94. He said the letter is almost certainly a hoax.

"It’s their shtick, that’s their thing, it’s what they are kinda famous for," Austin said. "Kudos to those guys for pulling it off, but the problem becomes you have to be careful how many times you go to that well."

Austin said a radio hoax can easily backfire.

"Nobody likes to be made to feel stupid," he said.

Jesse James of Jesse and Amanda with Pike in the Mornings on 98.7 FM echoed Austin’s sentiments.

James said "Cheryl" is most likely a hired voice actor the station paid to call in.

Like Austin, James was concerned about the hit on credibility Y-94’s bit could create. James said his show "is never fake."

No one has reported Cheryl’s last name, including Y-94. But it is not Cheryl Wald of Fargo.

Wald has been asked many times if she was the caller after the self-proclaimed fitness and health fan commented on social media about the letter.

Her voice is not similar to the caller’s, but Wald has been outspoken about how she agrees with the idea of a village raising a child and thinks it is a good idea for parents to watch their children’s sugar intake.

Wald said she received negative feedback.

"People were really mean," she said. "I’m into health and fitness, but I don’t think kids should get a letter like that."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2013 A5

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Updated on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 10:01 AM CDT: Adds full story text.

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