People magazine wrongly reported Kirk Douglas died Nov. 30.
People‘s website published a pre-written obituary announcing Douglas’s death, but he is “very much alive” and the obit “was obviously not meant to publish,” the Hollywood Reporter reported.
People has since unpublished the obituary. “Neither Kirk Douglas nor People Magazine is commenting” on the error, the Washington Post reported.
News outlets often write in advance obituaries for public figures as iMediaEthics has reported. About two years ago, Germany’s Der Spiegel published its obituary for former U.S. president George H. W. Bush, who is still alive. That obituary also criticized Bush as a “colorless politician.”
In this case, People published on its website a story with the headline “DO NOT PUB Kirk Douglas Dies.” Details about his death, including when, where and why he died, were marked with placeholder text. It read in part,
“Kirk Douglas, one of the few genuine box-office names to emerge just as TV was overtaking American culture in the years right after World War II, died TK TK TK. He was 97 (DOB 12/9/1916) and had been in good health despite having suffered a debilitating 1996 stroke that rendered his speech difficult.”
Douglas turns 98 this month, the Kansas City Star noted.
In June 2013, Germany’s Deutsche Welle published its obituary for Nelson Mandela about six months before he died.
The year before, several news outlets published reports claiming former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died. He died the day after news outlets like Penn State student news site Onward State, People, CBS Sports, and the Huffington Post reported he died.
And in 2011, the Washington Post published an obituary for Christopher Hitchens — who had died — with placeholder text for place and cause of death.
iMediaEthics has written to People for comment.