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NBC Explains False DiMaggio Report

January 25, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A technician in NBC’s New York control room inadvertently sent an erroneous report on ``Dateline NBC″ that baseball legend Joe DiMaggio had died.

``He just hit the wrong button,″ network spokesman Cory Shields said Sunday. Shields would not identify the technician.

The report, sent out live to all the network’s East Coast affiliates Sunday evening, was corrected about 20 minutes after it was broadcast.

It came on as a crawl, or words running at the bottom of the television screen, at about 7:30 p.m. EST: ``This is an NBC News Special Report. Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio has died at his Florida home. He was 84 years old and had.″ The message was then cut off.

An NBC employee had typed the report and stored it in NBC’s computer earlier in the day after reading a New York Daily News report that DiMaggio was in grave condition and using a ventilator.

NBC ran another crawl about 20 minutes later, saying its previous report that DiMaggio had died was inaccurate. ``Mr. DiMaggio remains in stable condition at his Florida home,″ the report said, running over a taped Katie Couric interview with actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

NBC is trying to reach DiMaggio’s family to apologize, Shields said.

Telephone messages left with Dr. Earl Barron, DiMaggio’s doctor, and with the Hall of Famer’s friend and lawyer, Morris Engelberg, were not returned to The Associated Press.

DiMaggio spent 99 days in intensive care at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., after contracting lung cancer. He is too weak to undergo chemotherapy.

Although the erroneous NBC report was only sent out live on East Coast stations, some affiliates in the Midwest or West may have also picked up the report and ran it, Shields said.

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