Thomson Reuters thinks the 82-year-old billionaire philanthropist George Soros is dead. At 5:41 p.m. Eastern on Thursday afternoon, the 162-year-old news agency accidentally published reporter Todd Eastham's prewritten obituary for Soros, complete with dummy text for the place and time of his future death:
(Reuters) - George Soros, who died XXX at age XXX, was a predatory and hugely successful financier and investor, who argued paradoxically for years against the same sort of free-wheeling capitalism that made him billions.
As the words "predatory" and "free-wheeling" suggest, the 1,122-word notice is not especially kind to Soros or the work to which he devoted his life. "He was known as 'the man who broke the Bank of England' for selling short the British pound in 1992," reads the second paragraph. "His Soros Fund Management was widely blamed for helping trigger the Asian financial crisis of 1997," reads the third. The rest of the obit is similarly unsparing — and, in certain parts, baffling. The second-to-last paragraph is devoted to the 2005 acquisition of the Washington Nationals, an incident in which Soros served a barely peripheral role. Furthermore, the obituary omits basic information, like the name of his fiancé (Tamiko Bolton) or those of his five children. The only mention of any family member appears in a paragraph explaining Soros's offer to help his mother end her life:
He has also been a vocal supporter of the right to die in dignity, revealing in 1994 that he had offered to help his own mother, a member of the Hemlock Society, commit suicide.
Nevertheless, the obituary supports a very specific argument, one familiar among Soros detractors: that he wishes to regulate the same markets from which he handsomely profited. It doesn't seem like a very rough draft. Nor is it the first time Reuters has accused Soros of hypocrisy. In October 2011, the agency incorrectly reported that Soros ("one of the world's richest men") had funneled money into the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Being unfinished, however, the scope of appropriate criticism is limited. (Slate called it "a remarkably ungenerous assessment" of Soros's life.) But it does give an uncommon insight into how these obituaries are written, at least at Reuters. According to an analysis published by the Sunlight Foundation, Eastham seems to have modeled his effort on Soros's Wikipedia entry, both borrowing certain phrases (e.g., "that would have expanded drug rehabilitation programs as alternatives to prison") and relying on the entry's collection of quotes attributed to or about Soros.
Still, who wouldn't want to know what their obituary will say? As Reuters' own Matthew Keys wrote on Twitter, "George Soros is living every man's dream: Reading what people might say about him at his funeral."
According to a spokesman who spoke with our sister site Quartz, Soros is, in fact, alive.