Woman sues NYC station over incorrect lottery number

A New Jersey woman is suing WABC-TV in new York City after it aired incorrect lottery numbers and she mistakenly thought she won $250,000.

On July 29, 2009, WABC-TV informed viewers the the Mega Millions winning numbers were 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, with a Mega Ball of 12. Based on the sequence of the numbers, it appears likely the numbers were likely aired as a result of “dummy” numbers used by the station as placeholders, a common practice at both TV stations and newspapers.

The use of placeholder text is responsible for numerous errors of a similar nature, including forecasts for “Edit Location.”

It’s always a good idea to use placeholder text that’s both obvious to viewers as placeholder information and easy to spot as having not been filled in. For example, “X”s would make a better placeholder text for lottery numbers since, by definition, an “X” cannot be a winning number. Though it’s obviously best to catch the error before making it on the air, Xs would at least avoid any confusion. A series of Xs also is visually easier to spot as dummy text, reducing the chances of it appearing on air at all.

Incidentally, there have been cases of repeated zeros being drawn as winning numbers and TV stations and newspapers including a note that, for example, “0-0-0-0” is the “actual” winning number.

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