For the next few hours, unknowing of what would happen next, managing editor Devon Edwards worked with reporters who were spread across campus at various points of interest. Our online newsroom allows us to collaborate and communicate from anywhere, and we all saw as reports both of JoePa’s death and his continued survival rolled in from across the web. We did not act on any of these reports.
But at around 8:00 p.m., one of our writers posted that he had received word from a source that Joe Paterno had died. The source had been forwarded an email ostensibly sent from a high-ranking athletics official (later found to be a hoax) to Penn State athletes with information of Paterno’s passing. A second writer — whom we later found out had not been honest in his information — confirmed to us that the email had been sent to football players. With two independent confirmations of an email announcing his death, managing editor Devon Edwards was confident in the story and hit send on the tweet we had written, informing the world that Joe Paterno had died.
Shortly after that, the unthinkable happened — Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn issued a refutation of our information, later corroborated on Twitter by Paterno’s sons Scott and Jay.
Disbelief spread across the organization and its members as we realized the gravity of our mistake. As Edwards explained to me in an email comment, “Sadness turned to shock and panic as I realized that I had made the mistake of a lifetime.”
Onward State took full credit. They deserve full props. Meanwhile, CBS Sports passed the buck onto them, saying that they didn’t report he died and apologizing only for bad sourcing despite the fact that they didn’t even properly source the story at first, only linking to a single tweet. Don’t know about you guys, but even considering the error, we’re trusting Onward State’s intentions a lot more this morning. EDIT: Craig Silverman’s take on this whole thing is also worth reading.