Journalism

One Letter Off…As the World Watched

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It’s amazing to me that several news agencies made an embarrassing typo on Sunday night, as news of the killing of Osama bin Laden was breaking.

Briefly at ABC News’s site, a red banner invited people to watch a live ABC News Special Report:

“Reaction to Obama Bin Laden’s Death”

Newsblues reports that ABC’s World News page carried this announcement:

SOURCES TELL ABC NEWS’ JON KARL THAT OBAMA WILL BE BURIED AT SEA.

MSNBC correspondent Norah O’Donnell’s account carried a tweet I’m sure she regretted:

Obama shot and killed per @JimMiklaszewski

Oddly enough,that particular Miklaszewski’s Twitter account hasn’t been updated since May 21, 2010. No fair blaming a dormant Twitter user, Norah.

Even the BBC carried a small text link right below its main navbar with the same error:

OBAMA DEAD: US dollar rises against euro and yen in Tokyo on news of Osama Bin Laden death

At least they got the rest of it right after a bad start.

The Sacramento Fox affiliate ran a graphic that mixed two names:

REPORTS: OBAMA BIN LADEN DEAD

And a weekend anchor at Fox-owned WTTG in Washington had a particularly bad slip of the tongue as Obama was leaving the lectern from which he announced bin Laden’s death:

“President Obama speaking from the East Room of the White House, telling the nation and the world that President Obama is, in fact, dead.”

His co-anchor whispers a correction to him and he immediately corrects himself. It would have been quite a trick for anyone to have called a press conference to announce their own death after the fact.

But it would have qualified as “breaking news,” surely by anyone’s definition.

The really sad thing, even if you can somehow excuse these mistakes, chalking them up to the heat of the moment in a major breaking news situation, is that this isn’t the first time the two names have been mixed up.

This means that these journalists already knew better, and should have been that much more on guard.

There can be no excuse for mixing up those two names. Ever.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.