‘Daily News’ Central Park Jogger story not a terrible April Fool’s joke, but a technical mistake

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The not-recent-looking photo that accompanied the article. ()
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People went a little nuts today when a story, headlined "Wolf Pack's Prey," went up on the Daily News website (and remained at least as late as 1:15 p.m.) with a timestamp that reads "MONDAY, APRIL 1, 2013, 11:17 AM."

At first it will seem, because the article is presented without any context, as though a woman was viciously beaten and raped and near death on Wednesday of last week in Central Park by "a wolf pack of more than a dozen young teenagers who attacked her at the end of an escalating crime spree."

If you're unfamiliar with (or don't remember) the details of the Central Park jogger case of April 19, 1989, you could be forgiven for thinking the paper doesn't even quite go far enough in registering the shock of the crime. As our mayor continually reminds us, crime is way, way down in New York City.

But if you are familiar with them you'll immediately see that the jogger, unnamed, is in fact Trisha Meili, unnamed in this contemporaneous account as such crime victims are. She's the Central Park jogger, whose attack set off one of the biggest and most controversial police investigations of the beginning of the Giuliani era in New York City.

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The controversy is especially fresh because of the November release of Ken and Sarah Burns' documentary about the case and an ongoing lawsuit against the city; more than 10 years after the crime, the District Attorney's office vacated its convictions on the crimes after another man's confession and DNA evidence backing it up called the conviction of the "Wolf Pack" into question.

On Twitter, some were asking whether it was a tasteless and poorly judged April Fool's joke, for a moment at least; weirder ones were out there. Others were guessing it was some kind of tech mess-up.

No, it wasn't a joke, and no, they weren't hacked.

"The Daily News is working on an historical package of coverage about the Central Park Five," a spokesman emailed me to explain. "A member of the paper's online staff inadvertently published an archived story about the case into our news feed. The link has been taken down."

Last night the Daily News' managing editor for digital tweeted a bit more:

Yesterday, reporter Nick Rizzo found a splash page for an archive package about the case published elsewhere on the site; the package seems to have been developed in conjunction with a PBS documentary scheduled to air soon. This page, also live as of 1:37 p.m. (click to enlarge), should give you an idea of what the context was supposed to be (though the dummy text is truly unfortunate):