This is what happens in the constant rush and pressure to be first among the news media – one outlet jumps the gun and falsely reports something and the pack blindly follows. That’s what happened Saturday when Onward State, the Penn State student newspaper, Tweeted that legendary football coach Joe Paterno had died. Joe Paterno did die over the weekend, but not until Sunday.
The ensuing fallout cost Devon Edwards his job as the managing editor of the Onward State. It also cast an embarrassing spotlight on the journalistic practices of some news media big boys, including CBSSports, the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Huffington Post, all of which re-reported the false information, in some instances without properly attributing it to Onward State. Another black mark on journalism.
As Barney McCoy, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,points out in his blog JournalCetera, it also violates a fundamental Journalism 101 rule – check your facts before you publish.
The moral: It’s good to be first, but you BETTER be right.