Thursday, February 03, 2011

Internet hijinx at One Herald Plaza

Lately it seems like more than a few people at the Miami Herald are still grappling with the concept of Internet and how it works.

Back on January 14 someone took control of the Herald's Twitter feed and sent out this embarrassing Tweet.

This past Tuesday an editor decided to redact a paragraph about mandated furloughs at the paper from a story that had already been posted on the Herald's website. Whoever made that call apparently doesn't know that once something's on the Internet, it's there forever.

And now we've learned that a Herald staffer posted a bogus story today about cat pictures on the Internet - complete with a cheesy byline - to the paper's website that stayed live for 7 hours before anyone in the newsroom noticed.

Some readers thought the website had been hacked.

One source tells me the "story was definitely up by 915am and was pulled around 430/5pm when me and a few other people started posting about it on Facebook and Twitter."

The Herald's tech editor Bridget Carey stepped up and explained the goof on a Facebook page: "No one hacked the Herald. We're learning a new publishing system this week and someone who was in a training class accidentally hit the button to publish live to the site."

(Here's Google's cache of the page.)

Click to enlarge.


  1. Funny. Sad, but funny. I'm not surprised. If Bridgette Carey wouldn't have been on Facebook, the story would still be online.

  2. Proof that it was actually on the Herald's website comes from the typo in the lede: thriled

  3. The shameful redacting of that information from yesterday's Herald story speaks volumes about the bush league nature of remaining newsroom managers and about the lengths they will go to - the ethical compromises they will make - in order to keep collecting their paychecks.

    The duration of today's screw-up, the sheer length of time that a phony story remained live on the site, speaks volumes about the lack of attention those bush league managers are devoting to their website, which has become an embarrassing junkyard of typos, glitches, stale copy, etc. Even as those same managers acknowledge that only the digital operation can keep the Herald alive.

  4. Interesting. I got here from a Romenesko tweet.

    As a former online editor at a small daily, I'm conflicted on how I feel about this. On the one hand: Yes it's mildly embarrassing and certainly doesn't present a professional sheen.

    On the other, stupid shit like this happens all over the Internet, and I don't understand why people are surprised by it anymore. Does this really warrant a bold "stayed live for 7 hours" or such loaded adjectives as "phony"?

    Look, you'd have to be an imbecile of incalculable measure not to figure out that a story about LOLcats was fake and clearly there in error. I'd understand some of the umbrage if it was posted in the News section, but hell, it's even listed under the Living section (one which most print newspapers have reduced to a single page, if that), the exact section you might expect to find such silliness.

    Now, speaking as a user: We demand that our media outlets and their staff listen to us, open up to us, engage us and interact with us -- in their own, more informal voices -- through social media and blogs. Yet we still give them grief when something like this (a simple human error) occurs -- with NO REAL CONSEQUENCE.

    Just my two cents, anyhow.

  5. @Steve: You're correct. Stuff like this happens all the time on the Internet.

    But newspapers are supposed to be different.

    Newspapers make mistakes all the time. But for something like this to stay up for 7 hours is troubling. Also if you read my entire post you'd see that this incident is just the latest in a series of snafus.

    I live here and see crap like this all the time from the Herald. The people who work at the paper are well-intentioned but there's almost no one left.

    For a different perspective read the comment before yours written by a former Herald staffer.

  6. well said Bill. Look at this.
    Every day it's worse. I feel terrible for the ones that are left.

  7. The real reason I think that story stayed up there was because no one reads the paper online. The commenter whose paragraph begins "The duration..." has it exactly right. Aside from glitches (stuff happens), it's the backwards mindset that's the problem.

    It's obvious no one's minding the shop. But it's downright delusional to still believe that the merchandise in the shop is in fashion, and the store room is well-stocked and orderly, and that the inventory control system is state of the art.

    But I can't say that any of us is, deep in our hearts, enjoying this Schadenfreude at the hapless Herald's expense. We're witnessing a big, clumsy, antiquated machine stumbling and falling, and the hole it leaves when it collapses will be bigger than we can imagine.

  8. The point I'm trying to make is that in the scheme of things, a silly, fake story about LOLcats, used to illustrate to employees how a new content management system works, and accidentally made live on the site, is hardly a solid pole to help prop up more serious criticisms of faulty journalism (and it sounds like you have some valid concerns with your hometown paper).

    In that context of serious criticism, I personally don't find this story being up for 7 hours all that troubling -- even if it is the latest in a string of incidents (I have opinions about that "embarrassing tweet", but that's another matter). Yes, 7 hours is a long time if it were a serious error in a real news story, or if it was prominent on the homepage (was it? Then I reserve the right to amend my criticism :D).

    I don't want to make excuses for the Miami Herald or its staff, and in the bit I've poked around your blogs I'm not sure if you've been inside any modern (by which I mean understaffed, bare-bones, multi-tasking) newsrooms lately. As a recent refuge of one, however, I can tell you there's a lot going on, and sometimes things get overlooked or missed entirely.

    That's why what would be most troubling, for me, is if it took 7 hours AFTER people started tweeting/Facebook-ing for anyone in the newsroom to notice and take action.

    Again, this is all just personal opinion from my perspectives as a former overworked newsroom staffer and as a regular ol' user of sites. I think we're all in agreement that understaffed newspapers/websites stripped and ripped to the bone just plain suck because - LOLcats and typos aside - it seriously impacts the overall product.

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