Good to see the strap at the bottom of the Sky News screen
was behaving itself for yesterday’s Bali Nine death penalty verdicts, unlike
Monday’s effort when Sky jumped the gun and reported the wrong verdict for
Renae Lawrence – 20 years instead of the actual life sentence handed down.

It appears the problem stemmed from the live English
translation of the Indonesian judge’s sentencing remarks in the
Denpasar court, particularly when he recounted the sentence the
prosecutors were calling
for.

Sky, it seems, hit the button early at its Frenchs
Forest headquarters. In fact, it
jumped the gun 40 minutes before the real verdict became apparent. The strap at
the bottom of their screens trumpeted a verdict of 20 years for Lawrence
and kept doing so until at least one outlet called the Sky newsroom to let them know
it was wrong.

Macquarie Radio’s news and current affairs boss Jason
Morrison must have been tearing his hair out at Sky’s trigger-happiness,
considering that Macquarie’s news service had accurately
reported the Bali court proceedings throughout and was
sharing the same very competent reporter – Andrew Greene – with Sky.

But by about 2.20pm, the damage had been done, with the The
Sydney Morning Herald
and The Age online services joining the Sky conga line,
along with ABC Radio and ABC Online, 2Day-FM and even Chris Smith, one of the
better presenters on Macquarie’s 2GB, relaying Sky’s mistake.

Twenty minutes later, Macquarie News circulated this memo to
its affiliates:

***WARNING ABOUT BALI NINE //Priority
FLASH //MacquarieNewsWire//1441a13022005

There has been NO verdict yet for RENAE LAWRENCE – the
judges were reading out the prosecutor’s case.

We have a reporter in the court being advised by a local
lawyer/interpreter.

There is NO sentence yet.

SKY made a mistake.

According to a radio news industry insider, “this has
happened with most of the major Bali sentences – the
media gets into a frenzy and starts reporting the verdict before it’s happened.
Sometimes they get it right, sometimes wrong.”

But it will now be a case of once bitten, twice shy for Sky.

In the end, it appears that 2UE were first out with the life
verdict in a live cross to their reporter Justin Hale during the 3pm bulletin.

Peter Fray

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