Whenever big events are brewing, it’s common for certain parties to prepare for all possible outcomes. Of course, most of the time we don’t see that, though. All we see is news organizations getting their stories up promptly and championship teams wearing their swag as soon as the game is over. We never see the headlines saying that Apollo 13 crashed. We never see the tshirts declaring the Kansas Jayhawks the 2012 NCAA men’s basketball champions.
Except sometimes we do, and that’s what happened today. As you may have heard, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Health Care Act – a.k.a. Obamacare – in a 5-4 decision today. To the shock of many court watchers, Chief Justice John Roberts crossed party lines and voted in favor of upholding the law, including its controversial individual mandate, which requires that all Americans purchase health insurance coverage. When the decision was first announced, though, there was more than a little confusion in the ranks. You see, while most news organizations were saying things like this:
U.S. SUPREME COURT SAYS UPHOLDS HEALTH CARE MANDATE
CNN was singing quite a different tune:
Supreme Court strikes down individual mandate portion of health care law. http://t.co/99U629Cp
And the error wasn’t just on Twitter. It even made it to their main news page:
Of course, it didn’t take them too long to tweet out a correction:
Correction: The Supreme Court backs all parts of President Obama’s health care law. http://t.co/99U629Cp
But by then the damage was done, and CNN had become the butt of countless jokes:
FOX NEWS: BOOOOO! MSNBC: YAYYYYYY!!! CNN: Anyone know what time this Supreme Court thingy is happening?
Of course, some people were drawing the obvious comparison to the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline, when the Chicago Tribune erroneously reported that New York governor Thomas Dewey had defeated incumbent President Harry S Truman in the 1948 election. Photographs of a triumphant Truman holding a copy of the paper (see the lead image above) circulated widely, making the incident a paradigmatic example of journalistic screwups.
“Still awaiting word from President Dewey” – CNN
Interestingly, CNN wasn’t the only news outlet to misreport the decision. Fox News, often criticized for it’s conservative leanings, had its own problems when the decision was announced. Like CNN, they initially reported that the Supreme Court had overturned the act, though they quickly corrected it.
Neither CNN nor Fox News made much fuss about the change, apparently – and understandably – wanting to just quietly move along as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, it looks like we have this generation’s “Dewey Defeats Truman.”