The New York Times has accidentally published an article claiming that the presence of watermelons on Mars has been confirmed. The piece appeared on their site yesterday under the headline "Fields of Watermelons Found On Mars, Police Say", before being promptly removed.
Fortunately, several people were able to archive the article, so we can all learn about the first life discovered outside of Earth. The article went into surprisingly little detail about the confirmation of extraterrestrial life, but that probably reflects the disappointment we'd all feel if we finally made contact with an alien species and it's a melon. Imagine first contact and all they want to talk about is pips and their superiority to honeydew.
"The FBI declined to comment on reports of watermelons raining down, but confirmed that kiwis have been intercepted," the now-deleted article read. "This story is terribly boring."
The article, of course, was not a scoop. Unless the New York Times is already in the pocket of Big Martian Melon or under some kind of alien threat, we can probably take it at face value that it was published by mistake, as confirmed by a small update on the site.
“A mock article intended for a testing system was inadvertently published on this page earlier,” the page now reads.
Everybody put your melon ballers down, Martians are off the menu.
For a little insight into how this might happen, publishing sites will occasionally create test articles, if any changes to their website have been made. You'd need to upload everything which would be in an ordinary article, like an image and text. Without anything to write about, a bored person may well choose to claim that watermelons are on Mars to amuse themself, in the same way a bored teenager might write "boobs" on their calculator as a quick test that it's on, just to be sure.
Organizations will also upload articles in preparation for events that they know will happen, for example, if a study has been embargoed. In larger organizations, they may even prepare death announcements for public figures ahead of time and leave them on their system unpublished, ready to go when that person dies. The New York Times itself has over 1,800 articles about public figures ready to go, should any of them pop their clogs. As they note in that very article, the practice has led to many people being declared dead over the years by other news outlets long before they've actually died.
We doubt that they made an article on watermelons being discovered on Mars "just in case". Another possibility is that someone could have been practicing using the content management system by uploading a nonsense article, before it was published in error.
Personally, I have several articles sitting in drafts that I have no memory of beginning and am now off to delete just in case, including one titled "if you stare at this image for long enough, you will see The Forbidden Colors" which with the context now forgotten seems quite, quite sinister.