The only good and pure site on the internet, Clickhole, recently reminded us of every blogger's worst nightmare: A post published with placeholder text. It's happened many times before, and we can only hope it will happen again. Because who doesn't love laughing at mistakes, as long as they're not your own?
One of our favorite examples of this kind of foible came from the Chicago Tribune, which last year posted a dummy front page with a cat photo accompanied by one word, over and over: test, test, test, and so on (Pictured above). Fortunately, the parties responsible were good sports about it.
Then there was the case of Twitter publishing a blog post announcing an update to TweetDeck, before the post was explicitly reviewed by Christina. Whoever Christina is. Whoops!
Maybe someone was excited.
And then there are the more malicious mistakes. Say, for example, a bigoted editor over at the Philadelphia Public Record putting placeholder text on a photo caption that listed fake, racist names for Asian people. The writer forgot to add the real names and the piece was published with the editor's HILARIOUS racist joke intact. The racist editor was fired for the flub. Good riddance!
Of course, sometimes people just make mistakes. It's a pretty common practice for a publication to have on-hand obituaries for famous people and public figures, especially as they creep up in age. Remember that episode of 30 Rock? You see where this is going, right? A whole trove of pre-written obituaries for people who haven't died is an accident waiting to happen, and there are oodles of examples of sites going live with obits for people who haven't died yet.
The most recent foible comes from People, which accidentally published Kirk Douglas's obituary. That's a nice and passive aggressive way of saying, damn you're old, will you just die already? Just to be clear, father-in-law of Catherine Zeta-Jones is still kicking. And People will be ready to roll when he's not.
While that's a pretty high-profile mistake, it's not the most dramatic instance of a site killing people before they've croaked. In 2003, CNN mistakenly posted obituaries for a whole slew of still-breathing public figures, including Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Bob Hope, and Dick Cheney. Oops?
The premature obit is probably the most common example of an editor with an itchy trigger finger. But it's not the only one. Others have been more benign, though no less hilarious. Last year, Wales Online posted a liveblog saying Prime Minister David Cameron had resigned.
More than a year later, Cameron is still in power. The site, by the way, noticed the mistake quickly, but not before someone took a screenshot, forever etching it into the indelible tablet of the internet.
Hey, it happens. Even the New York Times has published placeholder text—just last month, in fact! The grey lady went live with a draft of an article discussing the Senate's vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, and it was full of TKs (journalist speak for "to come"). Per Politico, it read:
"The Senate narrowly voted to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline Tuesday evening, with TK Democrats joining all 45 Republicans to send the legislation to President Obama's desk, where he is likely to veto it." In the second, "Senate Democrats narrowly defeated a bill TK to TK that would have approved the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline..."
Here's another fun example: This fall as the Royals were battling the A's to get to their first World Series run in 25 years, MLB.com accidentally posted a piece about the Kansas City team's loss, when in fact they had won 9-8 in an incredible extra inning finish.
Or did you hear the one about the editor who accidentally pasted a Facebook status into an article? That had to be mortifying.
Screw-ups happen. There will be instances of "Dewey Defeats Truman" as long as there are places for these mistakes to be made. And we can only hope someone will be there to screen shot them.