Almost certainly the most famous case of incorrect headlines by a newspaper trying to rush to press early goes to the infamous Dewey Defeats Truman
headline in the Chicago Tribune, published on November 3, 1948... which was, of course, actually the day that Truman defeated Dewey.
In our more "real time" news world, the quest to be "first" with a breaking news story can lead newspapers to do interesting things. It's no secret, of course, that many news organizations will pre-write certain stories, but it appears that a bunch of UK papers, in getting ready for the verdict over Amanda Knox, were so desperate to get the scoop out first, that they must have loaded up two versions of the story with their fingers poised right over the publish button as the verdict came out. Unfortunately for "the press," the court first noted that Knox was "guilty" of defamation
, and then cleared her on the murder charges
But it appears that the eager button pushers in various newsrooms simply heard "guilty" and hit "publish" on the "guilty" versions of the story
. Malcolm Coles' blog presented a bunch of evidence of various newspapers going live with the "guilty version."
He notes that the Daily Mail version of the story had all sorts of totally falsified details:
Of course, that opening sentence didn't happen. The story also included other made up details:
As Knox realized the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.
A few feet away Meredith's mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.
Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that 'justice has been done' although they said on a 'human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail'.
Following the verdict Knox and Sollecito were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took her back to her cell at Capanne jail near Perugia and him to Terni jail, 60 miles away.
The various newspapers that published the "wrong" story quickly updated to the "correct" one -- almost certainly also pre-written with similar details of "reactions" that hadn't actually happened at the time of writing. But that also resulted in some interesting juxtaposition while Google News had competing headlines from the same sources:
Nice to see that getting the story right is very much secondary to getting the story first. Nice work by Coles to catch all of this and highlight it on his blog.