Note to self: never ever report anyone is dead. (MGoBlog, via Twitter)
UPDATE: Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died January 22, 2012, of complications from lung cancer treatment. He was 85. Hours before, his death was prematurely announced by multiple news services, prompting retractions and apologies from those organizations.
Earlier Saturday night, CBSSports.com published an unsubstantiated report that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno had died. That 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.
The twitter account that first reported former Penn State coach Joe Paterno died just posted an update linking to a letter of resignation from its managing editor, Devon Edwards.
Once the normally reputable national CBS Sports outlet picked up the student news source’s story, the now-retracted report of Paterno’s death went national.
Inside Breaking News: The Paterno story: What went wrong
Our editor noted that CBS Sports — a trusted source — reported Paterno’s death around 9pm ET. The CBS Sports headline and story was based, seemingly, on erroneous reporting by the Penn State student publication ‘Onward State.’ The original CBS Sports obituary didn’t directly attribute the student paper. The Huffington Post followed with a story.
Before publishing, we waited for multiple reports from national outlets. The reports spread to numerous trusted sources, sparking our own decision to publish a post as a result. It was based not on our own reporting, but on the reporting of others.
Jeff Sonderman has a chronicle on Storify of the false reports and retractions. Many in the news media waited for the AP report before running a story, and thus they were spared the need to reverse themselves. Penn Live has the family's reaction:
Joe Paterno is not dead.
That's about as blunt as it gets, as sources close to the Paterno family say that the family is tremendously upset with CBS Sports and other news media who have erroneously reported Paterno's passing.
As of this writing, though, People Magazine still has an obituary online, citing the CBS Sports article as its source.
The title of this post is a nod to the weblog Retraction Watch, which tracks retractions in the scientific literature.