On April 18, news outlet Reuters accidentally published an obituary of investor and philanthropist George Soros. While the article has since been deleted, their website previously said “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.” Soros, 82, is still alive.
Among the many things the Reuters obituary discussed, including his wealth, they addressed the political policies he supported when they stated, “Forbes put his wealth in 2013 at $19 billion, making him the world’s 30th richest person, not counting the roughly $8 billion he has given away through various charitable entities he controls … He argued nevertheless for strong central government regulation to correct for and counterbalance the excesses of greed, fear, and the free market.”
Reuters published an article shortly after the obituary was pulled acknowledging the publication's mistake: “Reuters erroneously published an advance obituary of financier and philanthropist George Soros. A spokesman for Soros said that the New York-based financier is alive and well. Reuters regrets the error.”
While this was a mistake, Reuters should “regret” the article it posted. In today’s media, it appears that every news outlet yearns to be the first to break a story as opposed to being the first to wait for a breakthrough, search for valuable supporting evidence that make its case, and then publish it for public viewing.
We have especially seen this after the Boston Marathon bombings, where coverage from news outlets such as CNN, the New York Post, and Reuters all mistakenly published information that, shortly after circulation, was nullified and disproved by investigators on the case. While it is certainly coincidental that all of these cases occurred in the past week, it is a lesson for the public to understand that “breaking news” comes with a price, and that price is potential misinformation.
Understandably, news sources want to report new findings as soon as they happen to ensure that their audience gets new information. However, they must check and confirm the information they want to publish before going live.