For All Who Love Joe Paterno, an Anxious Night
Word spread quickly this evening that Joe Paterno’s health situation had turned grave. Hundreds of people gathered at the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium, bringing candles and other mementoes, and State College police set up barricades on McKee Street to prevent cars from driving to Joe’s house.
At about 8:45 p.m. there was word that Joe had passed away. CBS News seemed to be the source of the report (apparently based on a tweet it saw from the student-run site OnwardState.com), and several other news outlets began repeating it.
Ten minutes later came word that the reports of Joe’s death were erroneous. At 8:57 p.m., Paterno family spokesperson Dan McGinn was quoted as saying they were “absolutely not true.”
Around 9:20 p.m., Jay Paterno tweeted: “I appreciate the support & prayers. Joe is continuing to fight.” And his brother Scott wrote a similar tweet: “CBS report is wrong – Dad is alive but in serious condition. We continue to ask for your prayers and privacy during this time.”
Since then it’s been interesting to read some of the posts on Twitter that are critical of those who, in their zeal to get the news out first, got it wrong.
—”Tonight’s lesson: The old journalism adage ‘if your mother says she loves you, check it out’ rings true.”
—”big lesson young journos, you take someone’s death seriously. You get it from direct sources like family.”
—”When reporting that someone has died, you cannot be “confident” your report is correct. You have to be sure your report is correct.”
—”The CBS editor who went with the story of Paterno’s death should tweet his own name, instantly. Step up.” (This one came from from Sally Jenkins, the Washington Post sportswriter who interviewed Paterno a week ago.)
The Poynter Institute has already written a story explaining how the erroneous reports of Joe’s death spread. Onward State has issued an apology for their error, with managing editor Devon Edwards stepping down immediately. Meanwhile, Penn Staters everywhere wait anxiously, keeping the Paterno family in their thoughts.
Tina Hay, editor