Journalists at the New York Post re-learned the virtue of checking stories last week – even when the tip comes from the editor himself.
Reporters were aghast at what for most New York journalists was upsetting news. Elaine Kaufman, who runs Manhatten’s most famous journalistic hangout Elaines on the Upper East Side, had apparently died. The Post’s City editor told every available reporter to call up newsmen and celebrities all over the city to get their reaction.
Tributes began flooding in. Then the city desk got a call from a Post reporter covering the police beat, who asked: “Has anybody checked the story? I’m getting calls from people who say she is alive and well.”
Actually no-body had. Why? because the tip off came from Col Allan the editor of The Post, a regular Elaine’s customer. The reporter on the police beat was right. Kaufman was indeed alive and well, preparing to celebrate her 45th anniversary as a restaurant proprietor.
How did it happen? It turns out that Col Allen’s wife had called him and said tearfully “Elaine’s dead.” He assumed she was talking about Elaine, the restaurant owner. In fact Elaine was an old family friend in Australia who had passed away.
Allan told New York magazine: “Never before have I been so delighted to be wrong” he reportedly said. Why hadn’t he phoned to double check the story himself? His response: “Dead people generally don’t take calls.”