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The Rocky Mountain News erroneously reported this morning that Pope John Paul II had died. In an email bulletin sent at 11:30 a.m., the News declared:
BREAKING NEWS: Pope John Paul II dies at 84
At about the same time, the News posted a large headline in its website:
The problem, of course, was that the Pope was still alive, though grievously ill.
The News‘ gaffes were based on “Italian news media” reports despite the fact that those same Italian news media had earlier mistakenly said that the Pope was in a coma. Other American media outlets covered those same Italian reports, but most, including CNN, were careful to note that the reports were unconfirmed. CNN quickly pulled the bulletin on the Pope’s reported death from its site.
The News site continued to report that the Pope had died until approximately 11:53 a.m. Denver time, when it changed its headline to a much smaller “Conflicting reports on pope’s condition.” Finally, at 1:02 p.m., another update declared “Pope clings to life.” A few minutes later, it broadcast an email bulletin noting that “The Vatican has denied reports that Pope John Paul II has died.”