Nobody's perfect. We all make mistakes but sometimes these mistakes slip through the cracks and get past more than one person. This writer has certainly made his fair share!
Sometimes, a newspaper is a little too eager to get the “scoop” and when they rush to the presses to print a headline, do so with the wrong projected outcome. Other times, fact checking goes out the window to produce some pretty erroneous pieces of “journalism."
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, now these errors also occur on TV, social media and other areas where people get their news. Take America's favorite satirical newspaper, the Onion. I guess satire sometimes doesn't translate well as you will see later in this post.
1The Chicago Tribune mistakenly declares Dewey defeats Truman in presidential election
The mother of all erroneous headlines and perhaps the most famous incorrect headline in history! “Dewey Defeats Truman” was published on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948, the day after incumbent President Harry Truman won an upset victory over the Republican Governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, in the presidential election.
It was a perfect storm of the newspaper changing the way they prepare copy, a printer's strike and a political analyst who made the wrong prediction that caused 150,000 copies of the newspaper to be printed before being corrected.
In one of history's most iconic photographs, Truman can be seen holding the famous issue of the newspaper soon after winning the election.
How did this famously Republican-leaning newspaper describe Truman at one point? As a “nincompoop" of course!
2The Baltimore Evening Sun reports all Titanic passengers are safe
Where did they get the source for this story, the Bizarro World?
The April 15, 1912 edition of the Baltimore Evening Sun featured an article headlined “All Titanic Passengers Are Safe Transferred In Lifeboats At Sea.” This was as opposite as you can get to what really happened to the great R.M.S. Titanic and its passengers. If the Titanic was safely floating in the Atlantic and all passengers aboard were rescued despite hitting an iceberg, would Hollywood have made a blockbuster film of that?
3A German newspaper declares ABBA dead in plane crash
In 1976, around the time Swedish band ABBA reached superstardom with their classic hit “Dancing Queen,” a German newspaper spread a rumor that three out of the four pop icons died in a plane crash.
With the headline “ABBA Members Killed In Plane Crash,” the paper stated only Anni-Frid survived, but was severely disfigured from the accident.
Later, in an effort to prove the story false, band members Agnetha, Benny, Björn, and Anni-Frid appeared on German TV to dispel the rumors and prove they were indeed still alive and well.
Sorry, Germany, there was no “S.O.S” from ABBA!
4A Chinese news organization reports Kim Jong-un as "The Sexiest Man Alive"
Many people know that the Onion is America's preeminent satire news organization. Well, maybe certain journalists in China don't know that. Like we said in the introduction, sometimes satire doesn't translate well, if at all.
Back when the Onion was an in-print periodical in addition to their online presence, it was known for political and social satire, often making up truly ridiculous stories for a chuckle. For the paper's November 14, 2012 edition, the Onion crowned North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un “The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive For 2012.” Along with this “story,” the Onion's website had a 55-image slideshow of Lil' Kim Jong commemorating this “honor.”
How is this a headline error? Well, China's state newspaper People's Daily caught wind of the story and took it as truth.
How did the Onion respond when finding out about People's Daily getting wind of this “news” and reporting it on their website? They posted: “For more coverage on ‘The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012,' Kim Jong-un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades.”
And how did People's Daily counter? The Chinese website removed the spread with their link to the Onion story and left nothing but an error message.
5Several news organizations mistakenly declare miners in mining disaster found safe
On January 2, 2006 in Sago, West Virginia, there was a coal mine explosion causing the Sago Mine to collapse and trapping 13 miners for two days.
This disaster, one of the worst since 2001, became known as the “Sago Mine disaster” and received worldwide news coverage. A day after the collapse, on January 3rd, news services including Reuters and the Associated Press reported that 12 of the 13 miners had indeed survived. The governor was seen in a nearby church celebrating with the victims' families overjoyed by news of this “miracle.”
Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito even appeared on CNN and announced that 21 miners had survived, but hours after USA Today ran the headline of “Alive! Miners beat odds!” and major U.S. newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post ran similar headlines, the mining company's CEO, Ben Hatfield confirmed that there was only one survivor in the disaster. At a press conference announcing the death toll, grief stricken friends and relatives of the victims called mine officials “liars” and one even lunged at an official.
A truly sad day for the victims and their loved ones.
6The NY Post announced the wrong running mate for John Kerry in the 2004 election
During the 2004 U.S. presidential election, as the world waited for Democratic Senator John Kerry's announcement of who would be his pick as his running mate, the New York Post ran the headline “Kerry's Choice: Dem Picks Gephardt As VP Candidate.” However, Senator Richard Gephardt of Missouri turned out not to be Kerry's running mate.
Just hours after the late edition of the New York Post hit the stands, Senator Kerry announced on the Today Show that infamous senator John Edwards of North Carolina would be his running mate instead.
Post editor-in-chief, Col Allen issued an apology, but that didn't stop rival newspaper, the Daily News from poking fun of the situation with a case of champagne and a note saying “Congratulations on your front page. Have a nice day,” followed by a smiley face.
Kerry lost the election to George Bush, but became Secretary of State in 2013. Whatever happened to John Edwards? Perhaps Kerry should have run with Gephardt after all.
7Bloomberg publishes Steve Jobs' obituary three years before his death
On August 27, 2008, the Bloomberg financial newswire accidentally published a 17-page obituary on Steve Jobs, a full three years before the actual death of the Apple visionary.
News organizations routinely prepare obituaries in advance, but during the peak of media speculation of Jobs' health and while updating their obituary of the Apple founder, the newswire accidentally let it go up live on the internet for just 30 seconds. Though Bloomberg quickly retracted the obituary, other newswires immediately picked up on it, and sent investors into a frenzy.
With classic humor and during an Apple keynote presentation, Jobs poked fun at the accident by displaying Mark Twain's famous quote, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" on a screen behind him.
Sadly, Jobs lost his fight to pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011.
8Reuters reports the death of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in error
While speaking to constituents in front of a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords was shot point blank in the head by a crazed gunman. When Gifford's husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, heard about the incident he boarded the first plane he could to be at his wife's side.
Upon seeing incorrect reports of his wife's death while traveling, Kelly went into the plane's bathroom and broke down. He later told ABC TV's Diane Sawyer, “To hear that she died is just – it's devastating for me.”
Reuters first announced Gifford's death on Twitter. The tweet said, “FLASH: Congresswoman Gifford dies after being shot in the head at public appearance in Tuscon, Arizona." NPR, CNN, Fox News and the New York Times also reported Gifford's passing.
To Kelly's relief, Gifford made a miraculous recovery and was well enough to see her husband command the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavor. She was also able to vote on the debt ceiling bill before retiring from Congress in 2012.
Six people were killed and thirteen others were injured in the January 11, 2011 shooting.
9The New York Post misidentifies suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing
The New York Post made a few egregious errors in its Boston Marathon coverage in a rush to get the scoop. One of its biggest occurred in April 2013, when two men in the crowd were pictured on the front page of the Post with the headline, "Bag Men: Feds Seek These Two Pictured At Boston Marathon."
One problem? The two men pictured were innocent.
While the Post never said straight out that the two men in the photo were the bombers, the cover certainly implies it. The term "bag man" has a criminal connotation and both men are circled in red in a second close up image inside the paper.
Not long after it was printed, it was revealed neither man pictured was even a suspect. One of the men, a 17-year-old high school student, told ABC News he went to the media to clear his name and said, "It's the worst feeling that I can possibly feel."