The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

September 4, 2013

NEWS FLASH; Neil Armstrong still dead

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 — A funny thing happened the other day. People all over Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media were mourning the passing of Neil Armstrong.

Now, in reality, there’s nothing at all funny about that. People expressed in tremendous and touching ways their heartfelt words of sympathy for the loss of this great man. Armstrong was a true pioneer in many ways — most importantly for being the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. His contributions to society will be remembered for years to come.

Yes, his passing truly marked a sad day ... when it happened a year ago.

Now comes the funny part.

You see, Armstrong died on Aug. 25 ... 2012. According to Hollywoodlife.com (where I go to find all the news on dead celebrities), ABC News erroneously sent out a message to Twitter on Tuesday to a story about Armstrong’s death. That was written a year ago.

Twitter followers — or Twits as they apparently should be called — jumped all over the story. People were posting and reposting the link. Pretty soon, the story became even bigger on ABCNews.com than Miley Cyrus’ antics at the MTV Music Awards this past Sunday.

And if you’ve seen what she did at that awards show, anything topping that news must be really big.

ABCNews.com took down the tweet, but the damage had been done. The news spread on Facebook, Google+ and just about any other form of social media out there, even MySpace.

At that point, I don’t know what was more surprising to me, the fact people were posting news of Armstrong’s death and believing it had actually just happened or the fact anyone knew MySpace still existed.

I had a couple of friends on Facebook — they shall remain nameless to protect their identity and embarrassment — who posted the news earlier in the day. When I happened to get on Facebook, I was very confused. Why in the world would people be posting and commenting on a death that happened a year ago?

Ohhhhhhh ... so that’s the reason why.

USA Today reported that ABC was intending to tweet a piece about the anniversary of Armstrong’s death. But it was attached to a more current video, which changed the timestamp on the story to Aug. 27, which made everything seem current. HollywoodLife.com reported the culprit was a misbehaving app. The social media sites eventually corrected the mistake, but not before it went viral.

I just hate when that happens.

Just Google “Neil Armstrong death” and you’ll find some pretty creative pieces making fun of the whole incident. The fact is, we can all sit back and laugh at it now. But upon further reflection, this casts a pretty dark shadow on how we get our news today. And what we believe and don’t believe.

Now I know we all lead pretty busy lives. Going here and there, meeting deadlines, chores ... sending gift requests on Farmville 2 (because the original Farmville is soooo five minutes ago). As Ferris Bueller so eloquently put it in the classic film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

I hope we aren’t all as easily fooled as many were the other day. Staying on top of current events, whether it is the latest news out of Syria or that outrageous video of Spider-Man schooling players at a basketball playground (you’ve got to check that video out on YouTube sometime), staying on top of what’s going on around you should be an important part of our lives.

Thomas Jefferson, that wise old man and former president (hopefully, you’ve heard of him) said “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.” I feel like I’m doing my part. Now it’s up to some of you guys to step it up and handle that last part.

One of the more funny websites making fun of the whole Neil Armstrong event was the British newspaper The Guardian. The paper posted a quiz asking people to select whether 10 famous celebrities were alive or dead.

Now I’ve never heard of Michael Winner, a film and food critic (he’s dead), or Barbara Woodhouse, a TV dog trainer (she’s dead, too), but I’ll let you in on a little secret: Farrah Fawcett, Dudley Moore and Donna Summer — three well-known celebrities in the survey — are also deceased.

As a matter of fact, all 10 people mentioned in the survey are dead. As The Guardian put it, dead right. (Sorry to spoil the fun if you were actually going to look up the survey).

So sadly, the great Neil Armstrong is still dead. It was an unfortunate mistake that ABCNews.com made, one that I hope won’t be repeated anytime soon.

Let’s just chalk this up to an honest mistake. Everyone is entitled to a freebie or two in their lives. Just promise me you’ll do a better job of keeping up with current events in the future.

And, for the record, Abe Vigoda, 92, still alive. Kirk Douglas, 96, still kickin’ it.

Oh, and by the way, Elvis Presley ... still dead. At least that’s what the media tells me.

To submit story ideas, contact Jason O. Boyd at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email at jason@stanlynewspress.com.

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