9 Times They Probably Should Have Stopped The Presses

Parade magazine recently gave readers a taste of the now-lost time when news traveled slowly and events often overtook information. Staring from the cover of the tabloid's Jan. 6 issue, a defiant Benazir Bhutto declared, "I am what the terrorists most fear."

Her appearance was a surprise to everyone but "the terrorists," who had murdered the Pakistani politician 10 days earlier and answered unequivocally the question Parade's headline asked its readers: "Is Benazir Bhutto America's Best Hope Against al-Qaeda?"

Makes you long for the much-maligned 24-hour news cycle.

According to Publisher Randy Siegel, Parade had put the Bhutto issue to bed a full six days before her Dec. 27 assassination. The 400-plus newspapers that deliver Parade to 32 million readers all elected to include the magazine with its painfully outdated cover story.

"Every week it costs several million dollars to print and distribute Parade," Siegel told NPR. But he went on to explain that money was not the reason he chose to let the issue stand. "We believe that what Benazir Bhutto had to say should be heard and this story deserved to be told."

Perhaps Parade columnist/super genius Marilyn vos Savant will calculate for us the odds of a publication going to press with a seriously out-of-date story, of betting wrong against a deadline, or just plain blowing it when it comes to life and death. As of our deadline, here are seven more examples of ill-timed news.

2006 "“ Good News, Bad News

coal-miners-papers.jpgInsult was added to tragedy after a blast trapped 13 coal miners underground in Sago, West Virginia. One miner was found dead after the cave-in on the morning of Monday, Jan. 2. But on Tuesday night news spread that the remaining 12 miners had been found alive. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin called it a miracle, families celebrated, and newspapers around the country published sensitive, salt-of-the-earth stories about the soon-to-be-rescued miners.

Three hours later, the celebrating relatives were informed that 11 of the 12 lost miners actually were dead. A witness said one relative lunged for an official and had to be wrestled to the ground.

The mine owner, International Coal Group (ICG), said it knew within 20 minutes that initial reports were incorrect, but waited until it had all the facts before issuing a clarification. ICG President Ben Hatfield blamed the confusion on "stray cell phone conversations." People overhearing bits of phone calls spread the incorrect information, he explained.

1982 "“ Requiem for Sgt. Fish

Actor Abe Vigoda was just 54 when he landed the role of elderly cop Sgt. Fish on the "˜70s hit TV show Barney Miller. Vigoda had played a recurring role on the creepy soap opera Dark Shadows in the 1960s, and appeared in the first two Godfather films. Perhaps because he was still together with his wife, or wasn't one of the 100 Sexiest Men Alive, in 1982 People magazine referred to him as "the late Abe Vigoda." It became a running joke -- Vigoda even posed for a photograph sitting in a coffin, holding a copy of the magazine. A quick check of the "Abe Vigoda Status" website this week reassures us that the actor is alive.

vigoda.jpg

2007 "“ Oh Wilbur!

barbaro.jpgWant the facts? Opinion? Truth? Or none of the above? Parade's "Personality Parade" on Feb. 11, 2007, included a question about the health of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who had shattered a leg at the Preakness. The horse underwent surgery, and "since then, his comfort has improved, and he's stable," "Personality Parade" assured the letter writer. After the issue went to press (curse those three-week deadlines!), Barbaro's health deteriorated, and the horse was euthanized on Jan. 29.

1998 "“ Hope Springs Eternal

bobhope1.jpgA boilerplate obit of seemingly immortal entertainer Bob Hope appeared on the Associated Press website, a week after Hope was feted for his 95th birthday. This led Rep. Bob Stump (R - Ariz.) to announce Hope's death on the floor of the House of Representatives, which was broadcast live on C-Span. Hope died July 27, 2003, at the age of 100. Stump had died on June 20.

1945 -- Vladimir Ivanovich, We Hardly Knew You

In the Soviet Union, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky was a scientist's scientist. He "was rated an expert in geology, chemistry, biology, physics and astronomy," according to Time magazine. "In the vast perspective of the billions of years of geologic time, man has seemed to orthodox geologists a puny and perhaps temporary phenomenon," the magazine said. But after witnessing World War I, Vernadsky concluded that "modern man's brain, rivaling in power the geological forces of wind and water, is radically transforming nature."

Americans were introduced to Vernadsky's ideas in an article in American Scientist. The magazine went to press just before the scientist died.

1974 "“ Goodnight Chet

hunter-brinkley.jpgIn the 1960s, news anchor Chet Huntley was more famous than Forrest Sawyer and Stone Philips combined. Huntley and colleague David Brinkley were NBC's power news team, and their dinner-hour Huntley-Brinkley Report were stiff competition to CBS's Walter Cronkite.

In its March 24, 1974, Sunday magazine, the Chicago Tribune published a warts-and-all profile of the newsman, who had retired from television in 1970. The article described Huntley's battles with conservationists over his plans for a resort in his native Montana. "In the past three years, Huntley has gone from being a national hero to something of a local villain," the article declared.

"Chet Huntley the anchorman has become Chet Huntley the businessman; worse, a celebrity businessman," the article sniffed. "And no one in this country is going to lose any sleep over knocking a big-shot mercenary."

Five days before "Chet Huntley in Hot Water" appeared, Huntley, who was known to be ill, had died of lung cancer.

Like Parade's Benazir Bhutto story, the Huntley piece had gone to press almost three weeks earlier. And in an unsurprising foreshadowing, Editor John Fink defended the decision to stick by the article. The $100,000 in production fees and advertising had nothing to do with the decision, he told Time. "It was basically a story on Huntley and his life, and it seemed to me that if he should die before publication, it could be something of a final statement."

1948 "“ Dewey Defeats Truman

dewey-defeats-truman.jpg

We couldn't leave out the Mother of All Newspaper Goofs. President Harry S Truman was in a tight four-man race for reelection. His Democratic party was split and Gallup polls predicted a landslide for Republican Thomas E. Dewey's. On election night, Truman went to bed in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, believing he had lost the election. Overnight, though, Truman closed the gap, and at 10:14 a.m. Dewey conceded the election.

But it was too late for the Chicago Daily Tribune which, buoyed by the general belief that the Republican had the election in the bag, already had released an edition proclaiming "Dewey Defeats Truman." Once Truman's victory became apparent, the kerry.jpgnewspaper scrambled to retrieve as many copies as it could. That day, Truman's Washington-bound train was stopped in St. Louis, and the president was handed a copy of the Tribune. An Associated Press photographer snapped Truman's reaction.

In 2004, the New York Post did their best Daily Tribune impression by announcing the "exclusive" news that John Kerry had selected Dick Gephardt as his running mate. We'll save that story for our inevitable follow-up: "9 Times Newspaper Exclusives Were Blatantly Wrong."

David Holzel is a writer outside Washington, D.C., and co-creator of The Franklin Pierce Pages. He was assisted on this piece by a brilliant librarian who wishes to remain anonymous.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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