To err is human, but what when the media errs?
Once the paper is printed, an article published online or a post shared on social media, there isn't any going back.
So, Washington Post got it a little mixed up with the headline of terrorist-in-chief Baghdadi's obituary piece on Sunday. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48 is what the American daily - which boasts of no less than 47 Pulitzer prizes - headlined the obit in its online edition. 'Austere religious scholar' doesn't exactly concede the fact that Al Baghdadi was the most wanted terrorist in the world, and that the US had a $25-million bounty on his head. Al Baghdadi, after all, wasn't just the self-proclaimed caliph of Daesh, the so-called caliphate, but was also directly involved in the terror outfit's bestial atrocities and human rights violations, including genocide, sex slavery, massacres organised rape, floggings, and public executions.
So WaPo got it more than a little mixed up there. But it happens to the best of us, and the newspaper's veep of communications, Kristine Coratti Kelly acknowledged as much when she tweeted "Regarding our al-Baghdadi obituary, the headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly." Quickly maybe, but not quick enough for the Twitterati out there, who started trolling the news platform with some really sarcastic and dare I say crafty memes under the hashtag #WaPoDeathNotices. Joe DeVito (@JoeDeVitoComedy) tweeted: "Osama bin Laden, father of 23, killed in home invasion." Kassy Dillon (@KassyDillon) said: "Hannibal Lecter, well-known forensic psychiatrist and food connoisseur dead at 81." Sen. Denise Batters (@denisebatters) added: "Saddam Hussein, successful politician, oil baron and noted tough boss, dead at 69."
There are far too many seriously hilarious ones out there and you must, if you haven't already, check out the hashtag. The point here is that mass media has always been an aquarium of sorts with our mistakes out there for everyone to see through the magnifying glass, and comment upon. Once the paper is printed, an article published online or a post shared on social media, there isn't any going back. As the WaPo episode demonstrates, even correcting it 'quickly' doesn't cut it. So what should the WaPo journalist behind the original headline do? After staying sheepish for 15 seconds, enjoy at the memes, get over it - and try not to make the same error again. After all, to err is human but to forgive is so not Twitterati.