Going off at half cock

Standard
"I told you I was ill."

I told you I was ill.

Most media organisations keep obituaries on file for famous people, so they can knock them out quickly in the event of a death – expected or otherwise. This standard practice can lead to the occasional boo boo of the “reports of my death have been exaggerated” variety. I do wonder what the urgency is with an obituary, why institutions feel the need to be ready to go. It’s just a symptom of the larger problem that media would rather be first than accurate, but why they feel the need to be first with an obit, who knows?

This week saw the premature publication of the Steve Jobs obituary by Bloomberg. Admittedly, this would be a huge news story were it to happen. It was clearly an error, since the blanks hadn’t been filled in, and all the suggested contacts were left in it. Interestingly, in a superstition reminiscent of that surrounding the Scottish Play, the word “died” has been replaced in the copy by XXXX. Bloomberg realised their mistake almost immediately, but that didn’t stop swift bloggers grabbing the story before it disappeared.

The Gawker has the full text, which is worth a read. It begins like this: “Steve Jobs, who helped make personal computers as easy to use as telephones, changed the way animated films are made, persuaded consumers to tune into digital music and refashioned the mobile phone has XXXX…”

As I mentioned before, people started gossiping about Jobs’ health recently when he turned up on stage looking very thin. The gossip has hardly abated, which is serious news if you are Apple or an Apple shareholder, which is why the Bloomberg obit has a paragraph headed, “IF STOCK DROPS.”

It’s still odd, though, to prepare obituaries in advance. They get all these quotes from people, everybody knows it goes on (even at the BBC), so why don’t they ask the future-deceased for a quote while they were at it. “Steve, would you like to comment on your demise?” He could quote Spike Milligan: I told you I was ill.

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