Mary Jane Veloso lives, but Inquirer ‘kills’ her



Mary Jane Veloso’s ordeal is like something straight out of a teleserye, except that it’s a harsh, terrible reality for many OFWs. Her story is familiar: Twenty years ago, Flor Contemplacion was hanged to death in Singapore after being convicted of killing her Singaporean charge and a fellow Filipina nanny. The Philippine government also sent numerous last-minute appeals to spare her life.

The Philippines heaved a collective sigh of relief when Mary Jane was spared at the last minute by the Indonesian government. Eight others who were also on death row were executed via firing squad early Wednesday.

News of her reprieve spread like wildfire, and some even called it a “miracle.”

But on the front page of today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, the leading national daily, Veloso was pronounced dead.

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“Only a miracle could have saved her,” they reported.

As of mid-day Wednesday, Inquirer’s home page did not use this headline, but they have not taken down the photo from their website either. The front page photo was uploaded at 12:38 a.m. today. UPDATE: Inquirer has removed their front page photo on their website as of 2:37 p.m., today.

The Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin were quick to update their front pages.

The Inquirer’s misprint highlights the growing difficulty for newspapers in the era of the 24-hours news cycle and up-to-the-second news.

Unknown to non-journos, most print dailies have three runs of their daily issues, indicated by the number of stars seen on the newspaper’s name plate, or the huge logo seen on the front page. The first printing is for their subscribers and the second one is for newsstands.

The third run barely gets off the press, except when there is breaking news that the second edition has failed to cover. In this case, Inquirer should run their third issue ASAP.

Actual times may vary, but newsrooms usually start preparing their materials for the next issue as early as 11 p.m. of the night before for the first printing, and past 12 midnight for the second printing.

With the news of Veloso’s execution slated to occur around midnight, major newspapers were placed in a tough spot. As late as 11 p.m. Tuesday, Indonesia’s Attorney General had pronounced that the executions would proceed as planned. The earliest reports of Veloso’s reprieve were released around 2 a.m.

For front page editors, the risk was clear. They could have run a safer headline but at the risk of looking outdated the next morning. With almost all of the signs pointing to an execution, editors could have also run with the most likely outcome—the death of Veloso—and come out ahead of all of its competitors the next morning.

Thankfully, Veloso’s execution was suspended. But for the Inquirer—its calculated risk did not pan out, and now must live on as the major Philippine newspaper who killed her.

As Don Keefer of the popular HBO TV series The Newsroom perfectly puts it, “The doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.”

UPDATEOn the tabloid side of things, Abante Tonite, went too far and printed “Paalam Mary Jane” in big, bold letters against a black background, occupying almost half of their front page.

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