Process Fun of The Week: When breaking news is breaking bad…the media fails

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Sam Miranda

Glaring QC failures are often associated with manufacturing and heavy industry.

This week, however, it was the turn of the media industry to hold its head in shame. In the frantic bid to break news of Margaret Thatcher’s death of a stroke, the international media made a series of gaffes ranging from mistaken identities to inadvertent wordplays.

Domestically, the BBC delivered the alarming headline "Live: Baroness Thatcher dies," evoking expectations of live footage from the Dignitas euthanasia clinic. This was after an earlier headline with a typo that suggested the Iron Lady’s fight against the trade unions and the strike culture had come back to bite her : "Reaction as former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher dies following a strike."

In another tactless blunder, Irish channel RTE flashed a banner ad with the text "The wait is over" during its coverage. The Guardian, meanwhile, made a more mundane error by publishing the dates "1925-2010" during its obituary video.

The Far East was one of the few areas to escape Thatcher’s belligerent foreign policy, so you might forgive it for displaying ignorance. Under the headline "Margaret Thatcher dies of stroke" Taiwanese news station CTi Cable showed two clips of the British Queen. And Meryl Streep’s performance in Thatcher biopic "The Iron Lady" was so good that Thailand’s Channel 5 passed her off as the real thing, including a still of the Oscar winning actress as part of its tributes.

The most monstrous gaffe came from U.S. news channel CNN. Its montage of iconic Thatcher moments included the Iron Lady shaking hands with disgraced English DJ Jimmy Savile, who was identified as a serial sex offender and paedophile after his death. The clip showed Thatcher beaming as Savile - involved in charity - held a cheque for children's charity NSPCC.

Social media also got in a spin over Thatcher’s death. In an attempt to share Spotify playlists of tracks celebrating her death, the term "#nowthatchersdead" started trending, prompting many Twitter users to ask if American pop legend Cher or British teenager Cher Lloyd had passed suddenly.