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Bloomberg accidentally releases Steve Jobs obituary

An obituary of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs - who is still alive - hit the Internet last week after someone at Bloomberg hit the wrong button and acccidentally released it to subscribers.

It is not unusual for news organisations to prepare obituaries for high-profile figures before they actually die. However the Bloomberg obituary comes four years after Jobs' brush with cancer and follows renewed speculation about his health and recent weight loss.

Although the premature obituary - which was marked "Hold for release - Do not use" - was retracted within minutes, the item had already been picked up and sent to gossip blog Gawker.

In amongst all the comments on Gawker about Jobs and Bloomberg's blunder is this cheeky ipod-inspired picture:

 

Picture courtesy of Worth1000
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Comments: (1)

Elton Cane
Elton Cane - News Corp Australia - Brisbane 03 September, 2008, 10:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The obituary update on the wire service is a regular occurence, and mistakes can happen. Sometimes it's the wire service sending it out accidentally without the usual warning header, but mistakes can also be made by media organisations who subscribe to the wires.

I worked for an English language newspaper in Japan that once killed the emperor well before his time, which caused quite a scandal.

I was there a few years after this happened, but from what I recall of speaking to colleagues who were there at the time, it was due to a mix of careless printing and an excitable subeditor at the end of their shift.

Part of the daily workflow involved selecting news stories off a single terminal, and printing them off an old dot matrix printer for review. Then the story was edited down to size and style and typeset. The printed copy could then be referred to by proofreaders if they had any queries about changes the sub had made.

One day one of the regular obituary updates for the emperor came over the wires. He was ill at the time, but these updates are quite common for major public figures and basically let media organisations have some up-to-date copy in case the public figure suddenly dies. These items usually come with a prominent warning in the header, that it's an update only, information for your files etc.

But someone ripped off this header when taking the previous story off the printer, just at the end of the news shift. When the sub saw the story, the news page was re-jigged to accomodate the breaking news of the emperor's death, and he didn't think to look more closely for any header info.

The resulting publication and discovery of the mistake caused a major uproar in conservative Japanese society. Right-wing nutters staged violent protests at the paper's head office (someone even said shots were fired into a ceiling somewhere). And the company's managers were forced into some serious bowing and scraping and begging for forgiveness over at the Imperial Household Agency.

Here's a NY Times article from 1988 on the mistake. In true Japanese style it was the managers that took the responsibility. They kept their heads, and their employment (barely). The editor in charge reportedly became what the Japanese call a "window gazer" - an obsolete executive who is employed, but given no work to do. They're lucky to get a window to look out of though. One guy I occasionally passed in an out-of-the-way corridor on the lower ground floor appeared to spend all of his working days in a small windowless room smoking cigarettes and playing solitaire on an old PC (no ubiquitous Internet connections back then.)