We’ve seen obituaries published prematurely – we’re looking at you, Reuters – but this may be the first time an obituary has arrived a year late. Confusion surrounding an ABC News story announcing Neil Armstrong’s death led many on social media to believe that the first man to walk on the moon died today – when his actual date of death was just over a year ago, on August 25, 2012. As a result, Neil Armstrong has been trending on Twitter for the better part of Tuesday, and those in the know have been having a field day with the Johnny-come-latelies tweeting “RIP” tributes to Armstrong as though his death was the news of the day.
As the blog Geekosystem pointed out, the year-old headline making the rounds on Twitter links to last year’s story, which has the correct date (but why read articles when you can just share misleading headlines?) Another ABC News article, with the same byline, has Tuesday’s date. The author, Ned Potter, no longer works as a correspondent for ABC News. The text of both articles are identical; the only difference is the date.
ABC News has since added an editor’s note to the offending article, and changed the date:
Editor's Note: This article was written and published on Aug. 25, 2012, the day Neil Armstrong died, and was updated this week with a new video to commemorate the anniversary of Armstrong's death. This update changed the time stamp on our mobile site, causing some to share the story on social media thinking we had published news of Armstrong's death today. We regret the confusion caused by the updated time stamp.
The Geekosystem post includes a screen shot of the obit with the inaccurate time stamp.
Well, we all make mistakes; let's just hope that ABC's was an honest one. Last year, ABC inaccurately reported that director Tony Scott had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor prior to taking his own life, a report his family subsequently denied, and that ABC later admitted it could not confirm.
In any event, we hope Neil Armstrong continues to rest in peace.