Joe Paterno's Death: How the Media Got It Wrong
An erroneous tweet from an editor of a student-run newspaper reported Saturday that the Penn State coach had died, and the news was quickly picked up by several national news outlets.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The managing editor of a student-run news organization that covers Penn State resigned hours after the publication tweeted erroneously that former coach Joe Paterno had died.
Paterno's sons had disputed Onward State's Saturday posts, and the publication had recanted. Paterno's family announced he had died Sunday.
The Saturday report was amplified by media organizations across the country and retweeted uncounted times. The Associated Press did not publish the report.
Devon Edwards, the managing editor, said in the letter that he takes responsibility for the misinformation. He said the publication retracted its tweets after "the mountain of evidence stacked opposite that report became too much to ignore." He also apologized to the Paterno family and the Penn State community.
"I never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State might be cited by the national media," his letter said. "Today, I sincerely wish it never had been."
Other media, including CBSSports.com, People.com and the Huffington Post, reported Paterno's death after the Onward State tweet but before he died.
CBSSports.com run a photo of Paterno with a caption saying the longtime Penn State coach "loses his battle with lung cancer at 85." The blurb did not include the source of the information.
In an apology, CBSSports.com said the mistake "was the result of a failure to verify the original report. CBSSports.com holds itself to high journalistic standards, and in this circumstance tonight, we fell well short of those expectations."
Last January, several media organizations erroneously reported that U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had died after being shot in the head during a public event in Arizona.
Edwards did not explain in his letter how the error occurred but hinted that the pressure to get the story first may have been a factor.
"In this day and age, getting it first often conflicts with getting it right, but our intention was never to fall into that chasm," the letter said. "All I can do now is promise that in the future, we will exercise caution, restraint, and humility."