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French broadcaster posts obituaries of famous folks who are very much alive

There can surely be few things more disconcerting than reading your own obituary on the website of a major news organization because 1) you might actually wonder for a moment if you are dead, and 2) other people will definitely think that you are.

Radio France Internationale (RFI) was left red-faced on Monday after it accidentally posted the obituaries of around 100 prominent figures that included movie star Clint Eastwood, former American president Jimmy Carter, Queen Elizabeth II, and soccer legend Pelé.

The prematurely posted articles appeared not only on its own website, but also on those of its partner platforms, such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Flipboard.

The long-running French public radio service, which broadcasts globally and has a listenership in the tens of millions, put the embarrassing blunder down to a “technical error.”

In a message posted on Twitter, RFI told its 2.6 million followers that it was very sorry for posting on its website obituaries of people that are still alive.

“An internal investigation is being carried out to determine the causes of this regrettable incident,” the company said (translated).

It’s no secret that most major media outlets have a library of obituaries already written up for prominent figures ahead of their demise. This enables it to post an account of someone’s life as soon as news of their passing is confirmed, thereby ensuring its audience doesn’t go elsewhere in search of the same information.

And it’s not the first time such an error has been made, with Bloomberg, CNN, The New York Times, and The Associated Press, among others, having also posted obituaries when the “dead” person was still very much alive.

It is, however, rare for so many obituaries to be accidentally posted at once, as in the case of RFI.

Just to confirm, at the time of this writing, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Carter, Queen Elizabeth II, and Pelé are not — to the best of our knowledge — dead.

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Trevor Mogg
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