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Premature Reports of Paterno’s Death Embarrass Major Media Outlets

Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno died Sunday of lung cancer, but several news outlets, including CBS Sports, The Wrap, and The Huffington Post, reported his passing on Saturday. A rush to get the news out as quickly as possible, without taking the time to verify the facts, led to a lot of corrections, apologies, and egg on faces.

It all started with the Penn State student publication Onward State, who were the first to report Paterno’s death on Saturday. That report went viral, with many major news organizations picking up the story. But the Onward State story was based on a hoax email, and one the writers who reported Paterno’s death hadn’t even seen.

Onward State managing editor Devon Edwards has since stepped down. He issued an apology, saying, “In this day and age, getting it first often conflicts with getting it right, but our intention was never to fall into that chasm. All I can do now is promise that in the future, we will exercise caution, restraint, and humility.”

Not all in the media who incorrectly reported Paterno’s death were so contrite. Huffington Post said only of their inaccurate reporting, which appeared on the site’s homepage: “A previous version of this story reported Paterno’s death and did not properly attribute the source. We apologize for the error.”

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