Station Site Goofs on Election Result

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"President Bush has won re-election as president by a 47%-43% margin in the popular vote nationwide…”

Sound a little presumptuous?

With just weeks to go before Election Day, an AP test story that was never meant for public consumption went live Oct. 7 on the WBAY-TV Web site ( www.wbay.com ).

The story continued: “Bush has won 324 electoral votes in 33 states. He is leading in 4 states for a total of 43 more electoral votes.” The story also states that Republicans have retained control of the House and Senate,” with a pick-up of three seats in the Senate.

According to WBAY web manager Ted Miller, the Green Bay, Wis., ABC affiliate uses an automated system to post AP news wire stories.

Though AP sends “test” items frequently -- especially in the weeks leading up to an important election -- a computer filter is supposed to weed them out. Apparently, there was a glitch in the system, Miller says.

The Bush reelection story was live on the site for 35 minutes, attracting 1900 page views.

“We acted very quickly to correct it,” says Miller, who ran a retraction within minutes. “There were more views of the correction than of the story itself.”

Naturally, bloggers seized upon the mistake and splashed it all over the Internet the following morning.

“If you had a chance to read the article, it read very much like fill-in-the-blanks,” Miller says. “The AP's numbers are completely random with every test. Whether President Bush or Senator Kerry or Ralph Nader was the winner of this test article or one yesterday or one tomorrow is merely a flip of the coin.”

AP spokesperson Laurie Morris responded:  "The AP test article was put on the Web site in error and the station has taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again."

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