Whoops! China touts success of space launch before takeoff

In yet another Web publishing gaffe of late, China's official news agency publishes details on the Shenzhou 7 mission--including in-flight astronaut dialogue--before it had even launched.

It's got to be Murphy's Law that once a reporter publishes a trend story, an even better example of that trend is destined to come along. So it was that a real doozy came to light only days after I published a collection of the top Web-publishing gaffes. And this one takes the cake:

Web news publishing gaffes
Click image to view our collection of Web news publishing gaffes, including the time Vice President Dick Cheney's obituary made its way onto the Web. TheSmokingGun

A nice little story hit the Web Thursday talking up China's long-awaited space mission and even including detailed dialogue between the astronauts, according to the Associated Press. Only problem was that the spacecraft hadn't even left the ground at the time the story came out.

The story was published by Xinhua, China's official news agency, in an apparent moment of clairvoyance. It was taken down after being up on Xinhua.com most of the day, the AP said.

A staffer at the agency later told the AP that the article, which had been dated September 27, was a "technical error."

The Shenzhou 7 mission, which is expected to feature China's first-ever spacewalk, did in fact take off successfully later Thursday (at least we think so--articles on the launch all cite Xinhua as their source).

But let's hope Xinhau at least comes up with some fresh quotes from the astronauts, maybe even ones that were actually said.

About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.


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