CNN Prematurely Releases Obituaries
Multiple premature obituaries came to light on 16 April 2003, when it was discovered that pre-written draft memorials to several world figures were available on the development area of the CNN website without requiring a password (and may have been accessible for some time before). The pages included tributes to Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Pope John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan.
Some of these obituaries contained fragments taken from others, particularly from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's obituary, which had apparently been used as a template. Dick Cheney for example was described as the 'UK's favorite grandmother', the site noted the Pope's 'love of racing', and described Castro as 'lifeguard, athlete, movie star' (a reference to Ronald Reagan). Though the Queen Mother was already dead, in an unrelated incident she had previously received a premature obituary of her own (see above).
APRIL 16--While all news organizations prepare obituaries in advance of the deaths of famous individuals, the folks at CNN inadvertently gave the Internet-surfing public a chance to preview how the network's web site would note the demise of Vice President Dick Cheney, Ronald Reagan, and a few other prominent figures. Until earlier this afternoon, a CNN server housed mock-ups of web pages announcing the yet-to-happen deaths. The CNN pages, which were discovered by the intrepid folks at fark.com, were yanked about 20 minutes after being exposed (though TSG was able to grab a few of the pages for posterity's sake). The premature obituaries, housed in a publicly accessible area of the CNN server and searchable via Google, were apparently the work of Peter Rentz, a senior multimedia designer at CNN. The mock-ups are virtually identical to the obituary design currently used by CNN when a notable person dies (click here to see how CNN covered the Queen Mother's March 2002 death). In fact, elements of the Queen Mum's obit template can be seen in the below Cheney design. In addition to Cheney and Reagan, CNN also prepped online farewells to Fidel Castro, Bob Hope, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Gerald Ford.