Talk about deja vu!
Five years ago, police and federal agents seized 30 kilos of cocaine flown into Kent State University Airport from Los Angeles.
This week, police and federal agents seized 30 kilos of cocaine flown into Kent State University Airport from Los Angeles.
At least that’s what was reported Wednesday morning on news outlets across the country.
Small problem: The second bust didn’t happen.
The whole thing started because a bunch of people read an old story on our website, Ohio.com.
For reasons that aren’t clear, the 2008 story showed up Wednesday morning on the Ohio.com list of “most read” stories of the day.
That list is generated automatically, based on the number of clicks a story gets starting at midnight. Sometimes an ancient story will make the list because some organization has just discovered it and posted a link for its members, or a national news or gossip site posts a link as part of a general discussion about a topic.
As of this writing, we don’t have the analytic report to tell us where all that traffic was coming from. And contrary to an assertion Kent State tweeted Wednesday morning, the problem was NOT created because the story was “mistakenly re-posted by a local news organization.”
Yes, the story was available on our website — along with roughly a quarter of a million other old stories. Anyone who Googled “Kent State” and “airport” and “cocaine” early Wednesday morning — or on any morning last year, or the year before — could have gone directly to that story. (We took the story down Wednesday to try to help clear up any lingering confusion.)
Kent State later corrected its tweet, indicating the mistake was the result of “heavy web traffic [that] made it appear to be a new story.”
The heart of the problem was that the Associated Press, noting the high-traffic status of our 2008 story, simply assumed it was new, and at 6:30 a.m. sent out a nationwide rewrite, crediting us.
The AP’s story was posted on websites from Florida to California and Maryland to Texas.
At 10:04 a.m., immediately after being informed of its error, the AP distributed a bulletin that read, “Disregard Ohio cocaine seizure. The story was based on an outdated web link.”
Before the AP came to its senses — and, in some cases, well after the correction was sent — the story was everywhere. At 3 p.m., it was still posted on websites for NBC News, MSNBC, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and the Houston Chronicle, as well as websites in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and other Ohio cities.
Local media were fooled, too, including WNIR (100.1-FM), WTAM (1100-AM) and WEWS (Channel 5).
Kent State’s media-relations honcho, Eric Mansfield, says his office was bombarded with calls. Although the mix-up complicated his day, he didn’t lose his sense of humor.
Joked Mansfield: “The one thing they don’t teach you in PR classes is how to be prepared for a crisis that didn’t happen.”
But he clearly was having fun winging it. When the KSU police were consulting him about how to respond to media inquires, he suggested, “If they fly in again, we’ll arrest them again!”
Recently I expressed my distaste for business names that bastardize the language: FirstEnergy — two words jammed together for no apparent reason. FirstMerit — ditto.
Why you would want to give your company a name that looks like a typographical error eludes me. But this trend has been all the rage.
I didn’t realize how big a rage until I heard from Denny Stafford of Massillon.
The day the column was printed, Stafford headed to the office of his cardiologist — “a previously scheduled appointment, not having anything to do with reading said column,” he notes.
His doc was running late, so Stafford picked up a magazine. It was the September issue of SMARTBUSINESS — one word, all capitals.
Inside, he says, he found advertisements and articles about the following companies:
“One group had two spellings [styles] of its name, but with correct spacing between words: ‘john s. knight center’ and ‘JOHN S. KNIGHT CENTER.’ Guess they just couldn’t make a decision... ”
The next magazine he saw: FamilyCircle.
Before he sent me the email, Stafford ran a spellcheck and discovered it kicked out “every double capital word except ‘OfficeMax.’
“Can you bribe spellcheck? Maybe that is something you can investigate.”
Sounds like a job for the National Society for the Preservation of the Space Bar.
If there’s no such group, there should be.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.