It's a newspaper pitfall as old as the industry: Prematurely running a headline that says the opposite of the news. It happened to Harry Truman in 1948, it happened with a supposed house full of bodies in Texas in June, and it happened to Amanda Knox, who was convicted in a few initial reports in U.K. papers before it emerged, definitively, that she had been freed. Knox, who was convicted of murdering her British roommate in 2009, won her appeal on Monday and was released from prison immediately. She was found guilty of slander for her previous testimony, and ordered to pay court fees, but she was definitely cleared of the murder. In Britain, where victim Meredith Kercher's family said she'd been "forgotten," people were as riveted by the case as they were in the United States. For newspaper editors trying to be first, pre-writing stories trumpeting Knox's guilt turned out to be a mistake. The Daily Mail went so far as to describe Knox "collapsing in tears" upon having her appeal denied:
The URL for that story now leads to an error message that reads, "The page you have requested does not exist or is no longer available." But not only did they get the headline wrong, the AFP's Alex Ogle pointed out that they managed to find "sources" who got it wrong, too, as his tweeted screencaps show:
In a similar case of premature publishing, The Sun ran this headline with a lede that read, "the 24-year-old American will now be returned to jail in Perugia, Italy."
Again, the URL now leads to an error message.
Even the normally staid Guardian, which enjoys a reputation as a more sober (and accurate) news source than its tabloid competitors, initially reported in its live blog that Knox had lost her appeal. It deleted the entry shortly afterward.
The live blog at 8:48 p.m. local time:
Shortly afterward, the entry was removed: