News flash! Barack Obama has actually chosen his former arch-rival, Hillary Clinton, to be his vice presidential candidate. And Bill Richardson. And Kathleen Sebelius. And four other Democrats too.
That's according to a set of Los Angeles Times articles that appeared on the paper's Web site early Saturday. The choice of Clinton was described as pairing "two rivals who waged a protracted -- and sometimes antagonistic -- battle for the party's presidential nomination" and warned that her "placement on the Obama ticket could renew scrutiny of the Clintons' financial dealings, including the undisclosed donors who have contributed to the Clinton presidential library."
The articles were published in error, of course, and they disappeared from the Times' Web site a few hours later. While they were live, the list of prepared-in-advance headlines said Obama had variously chosen Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Chet Edwards, Kathleen Sebelius, Tim Kaine, and Bill Richardson.
Kansas Gov. Sebelius was referred to as "a seasoned politician with strong family and political ties to the Democratic ticket." New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is a "leading Latino politician with extensive government experience that includes a stint as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations." Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is described as "a politician who could reinforce Obama's message of change but who also shares the drawback of inexperience."
The Times' accidental publication wasn't exactly identical to the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline in a Chicago newspaper, or the New York Post's article in 2004 incorrectly reporting that John Kerry had picked Richard Gephardt to be his VP candidate.
News organizations often prepare different stories in advance of a major event where the timing is known in advance, such as an election, especially when deadlines loom. We've done this ourselves here at CNET News (though I don't think that we've published one accidentally--so far, at least).
Obituaries are some of the most common stories to write in advance, and occasionally those are published when someone presses the wrong button. There's an entire Wikipedia entry on premature obituaries; one of the most famous incidents happened when CNN.com accidentally made public the obituary for Vice President Dick Cheney. It's immortalized at TheSmokingGun.com.