Top 10 Erroneous Newspaper Headlines

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As humans, we’re all subject to making mistakes. Ever since we’ve existed, we’ve surely messed up somewhere along the line. However, when it comes to media, we expect the best of the best. This means well-written articles, minimal typos, but most importantly, we want to know that the information we are receiving is actually true. Who wants to waste their time reading a false article? I know I don’t.

Those who are involved in publishing newspapers, especially journalists and copy editors, being able to publish facts to the public should be the most important thing. No newspaper wants to print something that is completely false. However, as said earlier, we’re all subject to faults and mistakes. While these may be more than simple errors, here are the top ten erroneous newspaper headlines.

10. “Passengers Safely Moved and Steamer Titanic Taken in Tow”

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According this headline, the entire movie Titanic is a complete lie. Who’d have thought it? The headline was published on April 15, 1912 in the Christian Science Monitor, which is a newspaper published in Massachusetts. This headline reports that all who were on the Titanic were rescued, and even the boat itself was still floating along the ocean, not under it. I guess this leaves way for more conspiracy theorists. In any case, the Titanic did sink, and around 1,500 people died.

9. Tom Cruise, Pope John Paul II, George H.W. Bush, etc dead.

The fake obituaries that have come about during the years definitely make the list. From celebrities to sports stars to high-church officials, reports of a fake death have been made all around the world. Many times these obituaries are printed in newspapers without checking accuracy. It was said that George H.W. Bush died after visiting Japan’s Prime Minister, throwing up, collapsing, and dying.

8. “ABBA members killed in plane crash”

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Though not a headline run in the U.S., the German press in 1976 decided to start a rumor and say that all of the members of ABBA, except Anni-Frid, died in a plane crash. It was said that Anni-Frid, though alive, was severely disfigured. However, this has proven to not be true. The band even went live on German T.V. to prove to fans that they were alive.

7. “Hughes Sweeps Country as the Election Winner”

This headline was posted in many different newspapers, including the New York Herald, the Chicago Herald, and The New York Times. It was published on November 7, 1916, stating that Charles Evan Hughes was the winner of 1916’s presidential election. This would have meant that he’d have beaten Woodrow Wilson. We all know that’s not true!

6. “’Alive!’ Miners beat odds”

This is probably one of the most recent erroneous headlines published. The headline refers to an incident in January of 2006 where 13 coal miners were trapped. However, only one of the miners was able to make it out alive. Twelve of the thirteen miners died in the coal mine. It became known as the Sago Mine disaster. The headline was published in USA Today as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While these weren’t the only newspapers to print the headline, they were probably the first.

5. “JFK Raps Fault-Finders in Nation”

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This headline made the news on November 22, 1963 after JFK gave his speech in Dallas against opponents who “confuse rhetoric with reality.” Though the article was based on what JFK had expressed in his speech, the headline got it all wrong. Some newspapers even stated that before he even gave the speech, he was assassinated.

4. “Ford reportedly accepts No. 2 spot on GOP ticket”

This headline was posted by The Washington Post and many other newspapers. It had been reported that former President as well as former Vice President Gerald Ford had accepted an offer to be Ronald Reagan’s running mate. The article also went on to say that when Ford declined, George H.W. Bush decided to be Reagan’s running mate. Both are false. Bush Sr. was actually Reagan’s primary opponent.

3. “Kerry’s Choice: Dem picks Gephardt as VP candidate”

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This is another semi-recent erroneous headline. Published on July 6, 2004 by the New York Post, readers were told that U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry had picked Dick Gephardt as his running mate. This information was in fact incorrect. Kerry did not pick Gephardt, instead, he chose John Edwards to run with him.

2. “Congressman’s Flight Reportedly Forced to Soviet Isle”

Printed in a UPI report from Seoul on September 1, 1983, it was said that a Korean Air Lines jet that was flying from New York to Seoul with 269 people aboard, including a U.S. Congressman, was forced to land on Sakhalin. Sakhalin is a Soviet island north of Japan. The headline leaves readers to believe that even though the plane had a forced landing, everyone lived. However, the plane had actually been shot down and everyone on board died.

1. “Dewey Defeats Truman”

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If you haven’t heard or read about this erroneous headline, go back to U.S. History class! This is possibly the most famous false headline that has ever been published. It was printed in the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948. The headline came to be known because President Truman was expected to lose to Republican opponent Thomas E. Dewey. This false headline most definitely made journalists much more cautious to be the first to publish certain information, especially if it isn’t checked to be absolutely accurate.

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Written by Ashley


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5 Comments

  1. Interesting list. Number 4 is confusing, because Reagan did choose GHW Bush as his running mate after Ford turned down the offer.

  2. I'm surprised that the 2000 elections (Bush vs. Gore) didn't make the list. The day after the elections, many newspapers said that Gore won, and many others stated that Bush won, while in fact the outcome wouldn't be decided for quite some time.

  3. Tom Vanden Brook-the reporter for USA Today who gained national notoriety when he inaccurately reported his Headline story “Alive! Miners Beat Odds” in USA Today that The 12 Sago Mine disaster victims were found alive, when in fact the 12 miners were not alive and only one miner survived is such a terrible error to off made and reported. Reporters need to be more careful what the report. Those poor families who thought that their families were alive after reading that story…only to learn hours later that the story was completely innaccurate.

  4. On November 7, 1918 United Press (UP) falsely sent their subscribing newspapers a headline, which began printing extras:” GERMANY GIVES UP, WAR ENDS AT 2 P.M, Hostilities Cease at 11 AM”
    Before the papers hit the street, the news was picked up by stockbrokers on the Stock Exchange floor, where trading stopped around 1 p.m.
    Judge Learned Hand closed the federal courts, and the New York and municipal courts never came back from lunch.
    Businesses closed and crowds of happy citizens began to celebrate in the streets. Times Square became a packed mass of celebrants.
    Despite an official US denial of the story by Secretary of State Robert Lansing at 2:15 p.m. the crowds believed the AP press story.
    This let to a near riot when angry crowds attacked newspapers, and the AP office in New York.
    The true Armistice would happen 4 days later on November 11th.
    On November 8th, the New York Times called the UP’s cable “the most flagrant and culpable act of public deception”. The Evening Sun also noted that it had not published this false story.

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