Osama, Obama Mix-Up Is Because of ‘Bin’ in Laden; NYC Reporters Fight at City Hall


Above is a newscaster confusing the names “Osama” and “Obama” three times within 30 seconds. She’s far from the only one! In fact, it happened enough times in the media that the Columbia Journalism Review decided to look into why. Also in a Friday edition of our daily Press Clips media column: Reporters brawl at City Hall, Judith Regan goes quietly, and the best newspaper front of the week!

Words R Hard: To start, “it’s an understandable slip. Both words are names; they are separated by just one letter; and the words are also often used in close proximity.” But there’s more! Because human brains are very advanced and generally good at making words with our mouths, we are already anticipating the ‘b’ from “Bin Laden,” an expert explains, and “the person basically jumps ahead in the string and selects one sound too soon and inserts it.”

(Sometimes, when we’re typing we do something like this: “The estimate” becomes “thestimate.” We’re really fast typers.)


Then there’s the “frequency effect,” which relates to how often a word is used.

“We say Obama a heck of a lot more than Osama, and so in terms of the network in which these words stored in our brains, Obama is activated more,” Erard said.

Linguistics, meet journalism.

Fight For Your Right to Report: Dave Evans of WABC-Channel 7 and the blogger Rafael Martinez Alequin wanted to see Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference so bad that they fought over space. It got ugly:

When Walcott finished speaking, the two men resumed their angry discussion, with Evans — ABC’s political correspondent — telling Alequin, “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me like that again, or I’ll flatten you,” according to witnesses.

Alequin responded by slurring Evans, calling him a “f—ing f—-t,” witnesses said.

Enraged, Evans yelled “What did you just say to me?” and lunged toward Alequin — but Walcott stepped in.

Walcott, of course, is schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, the replacement for the failed Cathie Black.

“I did it in a moment of anger,” Alequin said of his slur. “I regret saying that word.”

Paid Again: Former HarperCollins bigwig Judith Regan might have been encouraged by Fox News boss Roger Ailes to lie to federal investigators — and she might’ve had it all on tape. But we’ll never really know.

Regan has settled the relevant case — before the Ailes bits started coming out, she claims — just like she did when she sued News Corp. for firing her back in 2007 and went home with $10.75 million. And so as Ailes remains untouched, Regan gets even richer and has a “hot new boyfriend.”

Patching Holes: Yesterday the Wall Street Journal launched a WikiLeaks copycat called SafeHouse, where sources could anonymously deliver documents to the newspaper, except when the Journal felt like ratting the source out, which they reserved the right to do in the Terms of Use. Oops! They updated today:

There is nothing more sacred than our sources; we are committed to protecting them to the fullest extent possible under the law. Because there is no way to predict the breadth of information that might be submitted through SafeHouse, the terms of use reserve certain rights in order to provide flexibility to react to extraordinary circumstances. But as always, our number one priority is protecting our sources.

Juxtaposition: Here’s a really good newspaper front page. Have a good weekend!