However, when I went back to the BBC News site to check the story today, I found that the offending copy had been rewritten to remove any mention of satellites. Just when I was thinking that I would have to come up with a new subject to write about, I spotted that one of the captions read:
The palm is said to be so big it can be seen on Google Earth
Brilliant! I have three problems with this. Firstly, I've checked on Google Earth and it is quite possible to make out the sunroof on the car parked outside my flat – not a very large object at all. Admittedly the satellite coverage of Madagascar may be worse than that of South London, but without knowing whether this is true it is impossible to use the caption to gauge the size of the palm. And since when has an object's visibility or otherwise on Google Earth been used as a common indicator of its size anyway? Or is the BBC suggesting that the scientists were lax for missing something that could quite easily be seen by satellite?
Secondly, 'is said to be'? Can't the BBC check? Presumably it could find out whereabouts in Madagascar the palm tree has been discovered and then use Google Earth to verify the claim. Said by whom, anyway?
Thirdly, why rewrite the body copy to make up for your mistake and then leave the caption? That's just shoddy... it would never happen on our publication (ahem).
(And now I am off to eat a biscuit so big it is said that someone in the building opposite looking through a telescope would be able to see it with one eye shut – as long as the weather was fine and I was holding it at a certain angle...)