An erroneous tweet by a student newspaper was amplified by media organizations across the country and retweeted uncounted times. The incorrect information found its way onto media websites, including CBSSports.com, People.com, The Wrap and the Huffington Post.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The managing editor of a student-run news organization that covers Penn State resigned Saturday hours after the publication’s Twitter account sent messages erroneously saying former coach Joe Paterno had died.
The Saturday report was amplified by media organizations across the country and retweeted uncounted times. The Associated Press did not publish the report.
Paterno’s sons refuted accounts of their 85-year-old father’s death in Twitter messages posted after those by Onward State.
“I appreciate the support & prayers. Joe is continuing to fight,” Jay Paterno tweeted.
Paterno has lung cancer and has been in a hospital since Jan. 13. His doctors say recent complications have made his condition “serious.”
Onward State recanted its posts but not before the erroneous information was reported and amplified by many media organizations across the country and retweeted countless times. The Associated Press did not publish the report.
Devon Edwards 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.”
The incorrect information found its way onto media websites, including CBSSports.com, People.com and the Huffington Post.
CBSSports.com had 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 on its site, 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.”