Last night, the tweets about former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno were coming fast and furiously. First came a slew of ‘RIP Joe Paterno’ tweets, most notably from CBS Sports and then a string of ‘Joe’s not dead’ tweets.
Yes, once again, real-time reporting has bitten the media in the proverbial arse. CNN has a pretty accurate timeline of last night’s craziness which ended in a tweet by Paterno’s son, confirming that the coach was in poor health, but not dead.
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Erroneous reports of celebrity deaths has plagued social journalism since its adoption. Usually, the incidents stem from tasteless viral pranks and are refuted quickly. This time, we had reputable news outlets tweeting and retweeting the report, giving it the air of credibility. Fact-checking has been pushed to the side in the interest of getting the story out first.
I guess we all should be a bit skeptical going forward about ANY reports of a celebrity death until it is confirmed by a credible source. It’s a sad day when the average news consumer needs to do their own fact checking to ensure the media is giving out accurate information.