Miami Herald Wrongly Reports Girl's Death -- UPDATED

Last night, the Miami Herald reported on its website that Amber White, the younger of the two teen sisters who were horribly injured during a parasailing accident on Pompano Beach, had died.

Amber was -- and is, from the latest reports -- still alive, clinging to life in critical condition.

(UPDATE: Since I posted this entry, the Herald has put up a story on its site that explains what happened. I hear that the family friend quoted in the story was Jeff Lynn. Here's the Herald's explainer:

"In an earlier story, The Miami Herald reported that Amber had died, based on information from family friends early Sunday. Near midnight Sunday, a hospital spokesperson corrected that information, saying she was still alive.")

I don't know how long the bogus Herald story was up on the web, but its sister newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, kept the translated version of the false report on its page until this morning. The headline, "Fallece una joven que sufrio accidente en un "parasail."

With the help of a Spanish-English dictionary, I believe that basically says, "Youth dies after suffering parasailing accident."

The lede: "La menor de las hermanas que suflreieran el sabado un accidente al estrellarse contra un hotel de la playa en Pompano Beach haciendo parasailing, fallecio ayer."

Crudely translated and summarized: The younger sister (Amber) died.

The Herald took the story down and replaced it with this revised article last night. In the comments, readers refer to the report that Amber had died. They write that someone claiming to be a member of the family posted a comment on the Herald board that Amber had died. A reader called "ummm" started the dialogue, writing, "Wasn't the paper reporting Amber having passed away last night??!!"

That was followed by:

"You are correct 'ummm.' I have never seen anything like that although if you read the posted comments it seems that the first report of a death didn't come from the Herald but rather a friend's posting."

"The paper did change the article headline and had a statement within the article that she passed away. If they did this solely on someone's comment, that's incredibly poor reporting. On the other hand, I am glad to hear she is still alive and I hope she can recover."

Let's see. Lax reporting standards. A rush to break the big story. The dangers of fast and cheap Internet reporting. This one has it all and should serve as a cautionary tale for every reporter out there.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman