A national news outlet caused a landslide of false reporting across the globe on Wednesday when it erroneously reported that a woman was killed in Yellowstone on Monday by a bison goring.
NBC’s breaking news reporter, Tim Stelloh, proclaimed the death of the woman in his story entitled “Yellowstone Visitor Dies After Bison Gores Her, Tosses Her 10 Feet.” The report credited park officials when attributing information about her death.
Instead of independently confirming the death, dozens of news outlets also reported the false conclusion including The Associated Press, USA Today, The Guardian, The Today Show, and numerous other national organizations.
Here in the Cowboy State, Oil City News and Sweetwater Now republished the false story, crediting NBC News for the information.
An Ohio woman was, in fact, gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park on Monday and while she was injured, she did not die from her wounds, an Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center spokeswoman told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
“Our hospital has had no recent patient death as a result of the injuries being described in the NBC report,” Coleen Niemann said.
Twelve hours after publishing the erroneous account, NBC corrected its original story.
“A previous version of this article misstated the severity of the woman’s injuries. She survived being gored by a bison at Yellowstone. She was not killed,” a correction on the NBC News article said as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Cowboy State Daily editor Jimmy Orr said his staff expressed caution about reporting the death because it couldn’t confirm it.
“It was an odd story because the NBC reporter didn’t attribute the death to any organization,” Orr said. “That gave us a red light. We held back.”
Orr said he reached out to the NBC reporter at 3:32am to ask about his source for the story.
“Hey Tim, I noticed your story said the woman who was gored by a bison in Yellowstone has died,” Orr’s email read. “Can I ask you where you got that information? We never got it and we’re right here.”
Stelloh never responded to the email.
“This is a perfect example of what not to do in journalism,” Orr said. “The rush to be first can bite you. Frankly I’m surprised that this report was so quickly mimicked. It’s embarrassing to say the least.”
The 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio, approached to within 10 feet of a bison on Monday morning, officials said. Two other people were also within 25 yards of the same bison.
As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.
The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.
This is the first bison goring of 2022 in the park, but park officials noted Yellowstone bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.