Sunday, January 22, 2012

RIP Joe Paterno

This morning's accurate reporting of Joe Paterno's passing brings a close to an extremely unfortunate and bizarre Internet frenzy over the last 12 hours. For now, the main take away should be that one of college football's greatest icons has died, hopefully peacefully with his family and friends at his side, after battling a recent diagnosis of lung cancer and, let's be honest, unbearable life without football.

If you found out via Twitter last night or received an inaccurate text from friend regarding JoePa's death, it likely stemmed from premature and irresponsible report by CBSSports.com, who claimed he had died while other news sources only went so far as to say critical condition. As you'd expect, the CBS report spread like wildfire on Twitter, instantly trending nationally and triggering obituary posts left and right. At 8:57pm, Dan McGinn, the Paterno family spokesman, reported that CBS' report was "Absolutely not true". Roughly a half hour later, two of Paterno's sons, Jay and Scott, tweeted that their dad Joe was still alive and continuing to fight. The conflicting reports sparked what can only be described as a Twitter play-by-play of Joe Paterno's death. And it made me sick.

Regardless of what you think of Joe Paterno--good or bad--nobody deserves a Twitter death. CBSSports.com issued a brief public apology to the Paterno family last night. It just goes to show you it's always better to be right than first; people don't remember who breaks a story like this first, they just remember if you get it wrong. And boy did CBS get it wrong--something I'll remember for a long time. The other side of this story is the Twitter effect. We're all aware that Twitter is basically designed to spread information, regardless of accuracy, at lightning speed. When that information is wrong, combined with the sensitivity of the death of a college football legend, it's an ugly site. As Brian @ MGoBlog tweeted with maximum pithy: "Note to self: never ever report anyone is dead."

The Internet sadly said goodbye to JoePa probably the only way it knows how: chaotically. I hope the Paterno family found a little bit a peace through it all. My thoughts are with them.

Rest in peace, Joe Paterno.

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