Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who has been treated for lung cancer and a broken pelvis, is in serious condition, a family spokesman said Saturday, rejecting reports the football legend had died. The family was upset about the reports, a source close to them said.
Relatives said Paterno, 85, was able to communicate Saturday night.”I appreciate the support & prayers,” the coach’s son, Jay, said in a tweet. “Joe is continuing to fight.“Jay and his brother, Scott, sent tweets saying a report their father had died were “wrong.”
Paterno is being treated at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, Pennsylvania, where members of the media were told to leave.”Over the last few days Joe Paterno has experienced further health complications. His doctors have now characterized his status as serious,” family spokesman Dan McGinn said. “His family will have no comment on the situation and asks that their privacy be respected during this difficult time.”
How false reports of Joe Paterno’s death were spread in Media
Meanwhile, CBS Sports published its obituary saying that Paterno “has died,” seemingly based on the Onward State report, but without direct attribution.
The CBS Sports claim spread widely on social networks, sparking multiple trending topics on Twitter and a tweet to @BreakingNews’ 3.5 million followers. We even tweeted a link to it from @Poynter.
New York Times reporter Mark Viera appeared to be among the first.
At that point, CBS Sports updated its obituary to include attribution to the Onward State report and a second paragraph noting contradictory claims. Other news organizations scrambled to react.
Joe Paterno’s son, Jay, later tweeted his own report:
Around 9:29, about 45 minutes after its first report, Onward State apologized to its Twitter followers.
A bit later, Onward State Managing Editor Devon Edwards posted a retraction letter including his immediate resignation:
“To all those who read and passed along our reports, I sincerely apologize for having mislead you… Right now, we deserve all of the criticism headed our way.”
“…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.”
“…I take full responsibility for the events that transpired tonight, and for the black mark upon the organization that I have caused. I ask not for your forgiveness, but for your understanding. I am so very, very, sorry, and we at Onward State continue to pray for Coach Paterno.”
Joe Paterno’s death sparking multiple trending topics on Twitter and a tweet