Back on February 7, a Rocky Mountain News reader got a mighty big surprise. Upon visiting the tabloid's website, he discovered an article claiming that Denver Broncos Hall of Famer John Elway was coming out of retirement to play for the team again. Included in the piece were comments from Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who suggested that Elway still had a lot of football left in him despite being fifty-years old.
In truth, Elway is only 47, but is that any reason to doubt the veracity of the report? In a word, yes. The story was bogus, but it wasn't placed on the site by a malicious prankster. Instead, the anti-scoop briefly appeared thanks to a mistake made by a sports editor while learning how to operate some recently installed gear.
Rocky managing editor Deb Goeken explains what happened in the following e-mail reply to questions from yours truly:
OK, here's the deal. We have a new Web operating system called Ellington. The best feature is that it's much easier to use and more accessible, so that many of our journalists can post stories, write headlines, and generally update our Web site. It's no longer the job of a couple Web producers. So we are in the process of training people on Ellington. On that day, a sports editor was practicing by writing a fake story about John Elway's return to the Broncos. He did great, expect for the instruction that said: DO NOT CLICK THE BUTTON THAT SAYS POST TO WEB. He in fact clicked the button, and accidentally posted his fake story. It took a while for it to be noticed. Our lead trainer, Carol Hanner, is making doubly sure that everyone knows not to click that button. I guess it could have been worse, considering the fake things that someone could have written.
Betcha plenty of Broncos fans would beg to differ. To be teased with the prospect of Elway back in uniform again, and then to find out it's not true -- well, after the past couple of seasons, that's cruel and unusual punishment. -- Michael Roberts