Monday, September 08, 2008

United Airlines Bankru ... Oops! Never Mind!

I'm always annoyed in general by Web stories that don't have dates on them. But here's a case in which some numbskull evidently put a brand new date on a six-year-old newspaper story and blithely sent it out today as news.

No, United Airlines says, it has not filed for bankruptcy. That's soooo 2002.

But the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the false story "quickly circulated on Wall Street" until United got out its statement denying it.

Shares of United's parent company, UAL, collapsed this morning after the false report circulated, to the point where they were trading at $4 in late morning before trading was halted. After noon, with the story debunked, the shares resumed trading, and closed at $10.92 today, down $1.38.

In its statement, United hastily blamed the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel for the foul-up and demanded a retraction from the paper, which is owned by Tribune Co.

But the Wall Street Journal and the Sun-Sentinel said that the error was made after a reporter for Income Securities Advisors, a newsletter about distressed debt that is carried on Bloomberg News business terminals, mistakenly picked up the six-year-old Chicago Tribune report from the Sun-Sentinel archives while Googling "bankruptcies."

Bloomberg itself then compounded the error by publishing a headline about the false report. Then, it was off to the races on Wall Street.

United entered bankruptcy in 2002 and exited in 2006.

Meanwhile, the headline on the fiasco on this afternoon reads, a bit churlishly, it seems to me:

"United Parent UAL Says it Didn't File for Bankruptcy."

United couldn't be reached for comment on when it didn't stop beating its wife.


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