January 22nd, 2012
03:15 AM ET

Media outlets scramble to report false claim of Paterno's death

The race to report started at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.

The Penn State student news website Onward State posted an item saying legendary former football coach Joe Paterno had died.

Within minutes, the misinformation pinged from one major news outlet to another, like a metal ball in a pinball machine.

CBSSports.com seized on the Onward State report, without directly attributing it to the site. The Guardian and The Star-Ledger, in turn, based their accounts on CBSSports.

The influential Twitter feed, @breakingnews - which boasts more than 3.5 million followers - linked to the CBS story. The news was tweeted and re-tweeted, spawning several trending topics on Twitter.

Over at Wikipedia, someone altered the entry on Paterno, adding his date of death as "January 21, 2012."

All within 15 minutes, before a Paterno family spokesman, and then Paterno's sons, set the record straight.

"Not true. Not true. Not true," the spokesman, Dan McGinn, told CNN after getting off the phone with the family.

Paterno's son, Scott, took to Twitter to correct the misinformation.

"CBS report is wrong – Dad is alive but in serious condition. We continue to ask for your prayers and privacy during this time," he tweeted.

The incident highlighted the crucial clash in today's hyper-competitive news environment: getting it fast versus getting it right.

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Filed under: College football • Sports • U.S.
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. ma & pa

    "The lie speeds around the world faster than truth can speak its first word". Someone please correct the quote if we didn't get it right. Our sympathy goes to those who grieved unnecessarily.

    January 22, 2012 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. hamsta

    cnn acts like they deserve a gold medal for doing their job.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |

    he was dead..then a zombie, then they killed him and he is really dead now.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. hamsta

    cnn acts like they deserve a gold medal for doing their job.its called journalism,check the facts before you run with the story.thats what they are supposed to do.cnn thinks they are special for getting it right,special ed maybe.i bet fox news didnt make that mistake.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. rooney©

    Silly media outlets. You should've done your facts checking!

    January 23, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |