“It must be true – I read it in the newspapers…” Perhaps there was a day when people regarded the accuracy of the press as unquestionable, but it’s certainly no longer the case. And it’s not just the newspapers, either; television news is, invariably, just as bad.
But really when you think about it, it’s not really their fault. They’re only human after all. And these days, the demand for rolling 24 hour news grows ever greater with more and more would-be writers enrolling in journalism degrees online to fill the breach. And where there’s more output (often hastily assembled), there are always likely to be that many more mistakes. In any case, here’s a quick roundup of three of the most high-profile (and amusing) journalism mistakes of our time…
Not Knowing How to ‘Right’
Glamour girl Anna Nicole Smith made great copy when she was alive, and the column inches certainly didn’t dry up when she was found dead in Room 607 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. The Houston Chronicle, though, made perhaps the most illiterate contribution to the saga when, in trying to convey the model’s humble roots, wrote in a photo caption: “When Redding, a long-time scout for Playboy, discovered Smith, the model could barely right a sentence…”
After more than 80 years in the business, you’d possibly expect the BBC (the world’s largest broadcasting organisation) to be able to put the right person in front of the camera. Not so. Back in 2006, a famous case of mistaken identity led to a taxi driver being hurried into a studio, miked up and then questioned in detail on BBC News 24 about a legal wrangle between the Beatles and the Apple trademark. He was forced to confess, live on TV: “I don’t really know what I’m doing here”. Guy Kewney, a computer expert, was left waiting in the car park.
Getting the Facts Wrong (or “Dewey Beats Truman”)
Perhaps the world’s most famous newspaper error. In the fast-paced world of international news, the real battle is almost invariably getting to a story first. Back in November 1948, though, the Chicago Tribune jumped the gun more than just a little when reporter Arthur Sears Henning mistakenly called the presidential election in favour of New York Governor Thomas E Dewey. Much to the embarrassment of the paper, Harry Truman won in an upset victory. But not before 150,000 newspapers had rolled off the press, with the now infamous “Dewey Beats Truman” banner headline.