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The L.A. Times Accidentally Ran A Story From Six Years Ago In Sunday's Paper
On Saturday, the L.A. Times accidentally republished a six-year-old story about infamous killer Betty Broderick being denied parole, making it seem as if the event had just happened. According to LA Observed (who first reported the mistake), the January 2010 story also ran on page 2 of the paper's California section on Sunday, again with no indication that it was more than six years old.
But that's not even the weirdest part—the piece in question wasn't actually a Times story; it was written for and originally ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which was a Times competitor back in 2010. Both the L.A. Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune are now owned by the same parent company, the artist formerly known as Tribune Publishing and later renamed "tronc" in what was arguably the worst branding decision since New Coke.
The Times has since issued added a "From the Archives" to the headline and issued a correction at the top of the story, explaining that the story originally ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune in January 2010, and that it was "inadvertently republished" on Saturday with an August 2016 date, "making it appear that [Broderick] had just been denied parole." They have also added a few paragraphs at the bottom with where-are-they-now updates on the judge and prosecutor.
KPCC's Off-Ramp reports that the Times' original correction this morning (as opposed to the updated version above) simply said "Correction: An earlier version of this story says Broderick was denied parole in this week. This story actually ran in 2009."
It remains unclear how exactly the mistake happened, though some have taken to Twitter to joke that perhaps it has something to do with tronc's content-harvesting factory ethos:
Tronc robots run amok: Oops: 6-year-old Betty Broderick story runs in LA Times* https://t.co/2PysUWKbQN #therebutforthegraceofGodgoI— David Mastio (@DavidMastio) August 8, 2016
Oops: 7-year-old Betty Broderick story runs in LA Times https://t.co/IrTIQiuTVw. >Maybe robots shouldn't run newspapers.— frazier moore (@tvfrazier) August 8, 2016
Mastio is Deputy Editorial Page Editor at USA TODAY and Moore is a writer at the Associated Press.
Off-Ramp's John Rabe also speculated about the possible cause in a Facebook post Monday, writing "My guess is there's some computer program that puts stuff from the web in the print paper automatically, so when the web mistakenly ran the old story, the print edition got it, too … and there was nobody working at the paper this weekend who remembered the old story."
Greg Moran, who wrote the story for the San Diego Union-Tribune back in 2010, tweeted that he'd been getting emails saying he incorrectly stated Broderick's age:
That story was like 3 owners ago. Got emails saying her age is wrong. But it's correct in the story. If it's 2010.— Greg Moran (@gregmoran) August 8, 2016
We reached out to the Times for comment and will update the story when we hear back.
Related: John Oliver Calls Out Tronc (And All Of Us) In Brilliant State Of Journalism Critique
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