How Twitter Set Fire to False Paterno Death Report

22 Jan

When incorrectly reported Joe Paterno’s death, it didn’t take long to spread. Here’s how it rapidly unfolded via Twitter:

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8:45 p.m. Onward State (19,000+ followers) “breaks” the news

8:48 p.m. Onward State’s managing editor, Devon Edwards (1,200+ followers) apparently overcome by the sad news of Paterno’s death, steps away

8:48 p.m. The CBS Sports College Football Blog (13,000+ followers) reports the death without crediting @OnwardState for the faux scoop, though it would later blame the local media outlet

CBS did not credit Onward State in its original report

…but threw OS under the bus in the semi-correction

8:49 p.m. The main CBS Sports account (52,900+ followers) tweeted the original news without citing OS, then blamed the local outlet for the error

8:53 p.m. Breaking News (3.53+ million followers) tweeted the CBS link

8:53 p.m. The Big Lead (34,000+ followers) tweets one of its writer’s links (and one oblivious follower gives praise)

9:01 p.m. Poynter (42,000+ followers) spreads the word

9:01 p.m. New York Times reporter Mark Viera breaks news that Paterno did not die, via family spokesman

9:09 p.m. Onward State corrects itself, blaming its multiple “corroborated” sources

Onward state then deleted some of its tweets, including the one that broke the news, which no longer appeared in the timeline…

…what was RTed by these two users no longer exists, either…

…and it didn’t go unnoticed

9:09 p.m. Poynter begins its corrections

9:21 p.m. Jay Paterno confirms that his father is still alive

9:22 p.m. Scott Paterno (16,700+ followers), another of Joe’s sons, tweets for the first time since Nov. 10 to dispute CBS’s report

9:29 p.m. Onward State runs an official tweet correction

10:15 p.m. Edwards, the managing editor, tweets a link to his resignation, along with multiple apologies

10:20 p.m. Onward State’s last tweet of the night was the link to Edwards’ resignation

10:33 p.m. Deadspin writer Barry Petchesky (2,500+ followers) tells Edwards he may have went too far

10:47 p.m. Fox Sports writer Jason Whitlock (115,300+ followers) consoles Edwards, and reaches out with help

12:01 a.m. Breaking News explains why it deleted its earlier tweet


7 Responses to “How Twitter Set Fire to False Paterno Death Report”


  1. How Devon Edwards Benefited from Joe Paterno Error « Social Meditation: Gerick - January 22, 2012

    […] It’s not all bad news for Devon Edwards, the former managing editor who resigned after falsely reporting Joe Paterno’s death. How did Edwards benefit after setting off a three-hour Twitter firestorm of false reports, retractions and corrections? […]

  2. False Joe Paterno death report: How can we be both fast and right? | Bleacher Report – The Writers Blog - January 23, 2012

    […] two tick-tocks, told mostly through collected tweets, of the Paterno false death report, one from the Social Meditation blog and one from Jeff Sonderman at Poynter. I recommend you take a few minutes and read both to […]

  3. Twitter Polices CBS’s Double-Gaffe « Social Meditation: Gerick - January 23, 2012

    […] Here’s how the incorrect report about Paterno’s death quickly caught fire. […]

  4. Twitter Polices CBS’s Paterno Double-Gaffe « Social Meditation: Gerick - January 23, 2012

    […] Here’s how the incorrect report about Paterno’s death quickly caught fire. […]

  5. What You Retweet Might Not Be True - February 1, 2012

    […] Paterno’s death was incorrectly reported on Twitter. He was not “Dead Yet” as Monty Python would […]

  6. Live Blogs/Reports « BradGerick - February 7, 2012

    […] Jan. 22, 2012: How a False Report of Joe Paterno’s Death Caught Fire on Twitter […]

  7. Twitter Lessons from Boston Marathon Explosion | Social Meditation - April 16, 2013

    […] Adam Lanza’s brother was misidentified as the shooter, and to pull a lesser example, when Joe Paterno was pronounced dead before he actually […]

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