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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

CBS Sports blogger fired over false tweet prematurely reporting Paterno's death



CBSSports.com blogger Adam Jacobi was fired for publishing an erroneous tweet that prematurely reported the death of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, according to Poynter. Jacobi tweeted the false news of Paterno's death, without citing his information source.

On Friday, Jan. 27, Jacobi tweeted, "I had an awesome 17 months with CBSSports.com. I'm sorry to everyone, most importantly the Paterno family, for how it ended." He followed that tweet up with another: "In the end, CBS had to let me go for the Paterno story going out the way it did, and I understand completely. Thanks, everyone, for reading."

Both CBSSports.com and the Huffington Post picked up a false story reported by the Penn State student news website Onward State that prematurely claimed Paterno had died Saturday, Jan. 21, when he did not in fact die until Sunday. As the false story of the long-time coach's death spread via social media, The New York Times and others soon began reporting that family spokespeople denied the rumors and said Paterno was still alive. Onward State Managing Editor Devon Edwards later published a retraction and resigned.

Mashable pointed out that Jacobi is not the first blogger CBS has cut ties with over false tweets. In September, CBS severed ties with blogger Shira Lazar who erroneously tweeted that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had died a month before his actual death.

As media analyst Alan Mutter told Mashable, false tweets seem to be symptomatic of today's 24-7 news environment. "It’s been a great tradition in the news business to always want to be the first with the most, but the problem is that the traditional latency between news gathering and news production — the different editing layers and time it took to actually go to the press and things like that — is gone today, ” Mutter told Mashable. “The good news with tools like Twitter is that we have many more people contributing to the conversation. But if they’re wrong, or especially trying to mislead or missing the facts, then that’s the price we pay for instantaneous communication.”

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post commended CBS for firing Jacobi and serving as an example for the rest of the news business. "A firing sends a message that CBSSports.com cares more about its credibility than it does about one employee’s job security," Wemple wrote. "Not only does CBSSports.com put on notice its employees that multiple sourcing matters, it puts on notice the entire industry."

While the Huffington Post issued a clarification for picking up the false story, the news outlet had no comment for Wemple about whether it would take any disciplinary action.

See this Knight Center Twitter feed for more information about firings and other incidents related to journalists using social media.



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