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How does a mistake like that happen?

The note on top of the Bay City News Service dispatch on Tuesday would make any editor cringe:

Who told the media that the victim was a woman? Caltrans spokeswoman Christine Dunn did in an e-mail to media outlets at 7:16 p.m. Monday. She wrote:

Reporters attempting to double check Dunn’s claim on Monday night with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, which has the contract to provide security for Caltrain, found that the officer normally assigned to the railroad was on vacation. It was too early for a coroner’s report — that wouldn’t come out until Tuesday. So several newspapers including the Daily Post, Daily Journal, Mercury News, San Mateo County Times and Daily News reported victim was a woman in Tuesday morning’s editions.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Mateo County Times got to the accident scene and interviewed an eyewitness, Donald Graham, who said he tried to stop the victim from jumping in front of the train. But it was clear that the eyewitnesses’ quotes were changed — with the addition of words in parenthesis to fit the incorrect information provided by Caltrain’s Dunn. Rosenberg’s story said:

Another newspaper, The Daily Post, contacted the coroner’s office on Tuesday to obtain the identity of the victim and also ask a more sensitive question — is there any chance that the victim might have appeared to be a woman. The deputy coroner told reporter Ryan Riddle that there was no way anyone could have mistaken the victim for a woman. (Disclosure: Press Club Website editor Dave Price, who wrote this items, is also editor of the Post.)

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