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CNN Mistakenly Circulates Prewritten Fidel Castro Text. Again.

At least this time, he's really dead.

27/11/2016 1:20 AM IST | Updated 27/11/2016 1:23 AM IST
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Alex Castro/AP

CNN blew it for the TKTKTK time this week. [[NOTE: Insert number of blunders on Monday.]]

OK, so the network probably didn’t actually air 30 minutes of pornography on Thanksgiving night, but it did accidentally publish a few editor’s notes alongside its obituary of Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro on Saturday.

The text ― which could still be read on some sites that published the story off the wire and didn’t correct the error ― instructs the story’s writer to make changes if former President George H.W. Bush dies:

One Castro or another has ruled Cuba over a period that spans seven decades and 11 U.S. presidents. Fidel Castro outlived six of those presidents, [[[NOTE: change to seven if George H.W. Bush dies before Castro]]] including Cold War warriors John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

To its credit, the note isn’t wrong. But Bush Sr. is still very much alive.

CNN’s gaffe wouldn’t even be noteworthy, had it not made a similar mistake with a prewritten Castro obit more than a decade ago. In 2003, the site mistakenly gave readers access to a small database of obituary drafts and graphics, The Smoking Gun reported at the time.

The graphic for the late Cuban strongman included placeholder text that called Castro a “lifeguard, athlete, movie star, governor, president” alongside a quote, “Life is just one grand sweet song, so start the music.” All that text had appeared in the obituary of former President Ronald Reagan.

News outlets often write obituaries in advance for world leaders, celebrities and other noteworthy people, including The Huffington Post. Giving one publication guff for going live with a mistake might be a little unfair, as premature publication has a long, storied history in journalism

It’s a funny, sobering, accidental tradition that has allowed famous folk from Sharon Osbourne to “Astronaut Neil Young” to read about their own demise. 

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