Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama reigns; it's Osama who's dead

Where were you shortly before midnight E.S.T. on Sunday, May 1, 2011? My husband and I were up watching the NY Mets' marathon baseball game with the Phillies when the sports announcers interrupted their play-by-play with some ground-breaking news: Osama bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces in Pakistan.

Shortly thereafter, US President Barack Obama took to the airwaves and confirmed the news in his address to world. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook were already abuzz with random facts [May 1, 1945: Germany announces Hitler is dead vs. May 1, 2011: the US announces bin Laden is dead]. And there was mass elation as joyous crowds gathered outside the White House.

My husband casually wondered aloud about how long it would take for someone to inadvertently comment that Obama (not Osama) was the one who'd been killed instead. It seemed likely since their names are so similar and a slip of the tongue in this case would be inevitable.

The first time I heard it happen today came courtesy of Regis Philbin during his dialogue with Kelly Ripa on their talk show, Live with Regis and Kelly. It happened so quickly and was easily forgivable. After all, we all knew what he meant.

Fast forward to earlier this afternoon, however, when I was reading the coverage from a local newspaper. Not once but TWICE did the scribe interchange bin Laden's name with Obama's.

Error #1: "...U.S. officials believe, however, that an adult son of Obama was killed in the raid."   

(Really? President Obama had an adult son? Who is now dead at the hands of US forces? Obviously it was meant to read "an adult son of bin Laden.")

Error #2: "Obama is likely to be succeeded by Qaida's current second-in-command."

(Apparently the scribe is foreseeing long into the future and predicting American voters will select an Islamic extremist to be their next president. Either that, or he meant to say, "bin Laden is likely....". Ahem.)
As a former employee of this newspaper, I can understand how these errors occurred: the news broke shortly after 8pm local time on a Sunday, which is when copy editors would have been finalizing their work to go to print. Naturally there was then a mad scramble to publish ANYTHING coming over the wire, and it obviously wouldn't have been proofread for content overnight.

I suppose I can forgive these errors as well.
Several pages later, in an unrelated subject, one of the letters to the editor made reference to "Jack Mulroney" and "Brian Layton".
Again, by having worked in this newsroom, I'm familiar with their system and know that this particular page would have been prepped late last week. Furthermore, it would have passed through at least four sets of eyes! SOMEONE should have identified the error and made the correction to read "Brian Mulroney" and "Jack Layton" instead.
Phew. So much for Monday being considered a slow news day.

Anyway, for a lighter look at bin Laden's final hours, check out this report courtesy of The Onion

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