CNN is the target of jokes around the nation and the world after running a report on a deadly asteroid due for a collision with Earth.
The article was published on the network's iReport system, which allows the general public to submit stories.
"Using their Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), the 10-mile wide object was found approximately 51 million miles from Earth... The asteroid is calculated to have a potentially lethal encounter with the Earth on March 35, 2041... Such an impact could potentially end civilization as we know it," stated the article posted by a certain Marcus575.
More than 233,000 people read the article and over 23,000 people shared the story on social media before the network removed the story from their website.
NASA Watch was the first official organization to refute the story. After they contacted CNN, the report was taken down and replaced with a brief explanation.
"NASA has confirmed via email that this story is false. A spokeswoman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory [JPL] says that the largest object detected by NEOWISE measures 3 km in diameter and poses no risk to Earth. The iReport has been removed," wrote David Williams, CNN iReport producer.
However, it still took several hours for this to happen, following the notification by officials at JPL that no such object was on the way.
Public input and reporting is becoming an essential tool in helping stories be heard. The internet is allowing the rise of citizen journalism, to see its greatest popularity in history. This gives voices to those who would otherwise be silenced by a media industry largely owned by a few groups.
Editors of these outlets need to be aware certain articles submitted to them may not be entirely factual. For instance, an article titled "Audience at Global Warming Conference Killed in Avalanche" may need some fact-checking. And "Nikola Tesla Rises from Dead, Shouts 'Try this, Edison!'" may be exaggerating facts.
Independent journalists are more likely to break local or hyper-local events than larger outlets. But, the chances that the end of the world would first be announced by an unknown person with a user name like BigDaddy243 are not favorable.
In 2012, CNN mistakenly reported the Supreme Court struck down the individual mandate to buy health insurance. They announced the news on air, by email, on their Website and on Twitter. In fact, the opposite was true. That error was repeated by Fox News.
When Pope Francis was first assigned the post in March 2013, CNN made a series of errors in their reporting, including calling the Pontiff the first to be born outside Europe. Many early popes were from Asia and Africa, including Saint Peter, the first person to hold the post.
The good news is, the world isn't ending yet - or is it?