Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died this morning in California, and as we reported NBC’s”Today” was the only morning program to be airing live at the time.
Unfortunately, NBC inadvertently ran an obituary for Taylor that was laden with out-of-date information.
The report, from Burbank-based correspondent Michael Okwu, said that she was 77 when she died (she was 79) and that she had nine grandchildren (she now has 10):
“Last seen publicly at her friend Michael Jackson’s funeral in September, she is survived by four children and nine grandchildren. Elizabeth Taylor was 77 years old,” Okwu said.
Jackson’s funeral was in September, 2009 which when combined with her age of “77” in the obit, means that the report was produced sometime between October, 2009 and February 2010, when Taylor turned 78.
To NBC’s credit, the graphic on the screen during the obit had the correct age, and immediately after the piece aired, Ann Curry said that “actually, she was 79” when she died. A spokesperson for NBC News says that the network had a correct obit, updated less than a month ago, but the old one ran accidentally. NBC ran the correct obit on the Central and West Coast feeds.
Pre-taped (and pre-written) obituaries are a fact of life for major news organizations. It is the only way to have a professionally produced package ready for when the moment happens.As it happens the writer of the New York Times obituary of Taylor actually died back in 2005.
Nonetheless, this should serve as a warning to TV news producers and executives: keep those obits up to date, and make sure they are logged correctly.