E.T. Phone Home — 13’s Space-Age Oops

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I put up a post Thursday morning about a big NASA announcement that Central Florida News 13 was promoting on its web site. "An Exclusive E.T. Scoop for CFN 13?," I asked in the headline. It was indeed a scoop — just a wrong one. And it ignited a series of events that crashed 13’s web site and had others writing about the station’s misinterpretation of a space agency press release.

CFN 13 — as did other media outlets — received the press release from NASA about an upcoming announcement that concerned the Cassini probe and one of Saturn’s moons. The press release had an embargo on it. CFN 13 posted this on its website:

  • "Big NASA Announcement Today. NASA is planning to make a huge announcement today, about possible life in our own solar system. Exact details of what we can expect to hear have not been released. We do know that evidence has been found that could point to life relatively close to the earth. Official word is expected this afternoon at 2 p.m. We’ll have complete coverage of today’s big news when it is released. Tune to News 13 for the complete story."

Well, after I posted about it, Matt Drudge picked it up and posted it several times on his web site, DrudgeReport.com. The CFN 13 story was the top headline for awhile, running in urgent red type. Drudge linked from his site to the story on CFN 13’s site — which then caused interested web surfers to crash the CFN 13 web site for several hours.

NASA and media outlets were scrambling. Drudge then posted a NASA press release. WKMG, meanwhile, ran a story on its web site talking about the erroneous report on CFN 13’s web site.

Brevard County newspaper Florida Today even got in on the act, taking CFN 13 to task — though not by name:

  • "The story posted earlier at the web site of a local cable news outlet here in Central Florida saying that, ‘NASA is planning to make a huge announcement today, about possible life in our own solar system’ is simply incorrect. The station has since removed the story from the web site, noting that earlier reports may have been misleading. It could be that other news organizations also posted or broadcast the same erroneous information or something similar. In any event, the "news" blazed a trail all over the Internet and prompted a lot of unnecessary excitement."

In the end, we now know NASA’s Cassini probe has found possible water geysers on the Saturn moon Enceladus. As the Orlando Sentinel reported, this raises "the possibility that conditions favorable for life in our solar system are much more common than once thought possible."

About Roger Simmons 549 Articles
Roger Simmons has been blogging about Orlando television since 2001. You can email him at roger@rogersimmons.com