By Tom Dougherty | @FFTomDougherty
In my college career, I’ve completed Fundamentals of Journalism I at Delaware County Community College—I know, it’s a community college, but doesn’t that make my point even greater? That is, I'm only a college student with no professional experience.
Enough of my journalism background, and let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this piece. At 8:49 p.m. Saturday night, CBS Sports committed several no-no’s in the journalism business.
CBS Sports tweeted the following:
Because of their respected status as a sports media outlet, their tweet quickly was spread around Twitter; thousands of bloggers and other media outlets passed along the devastating news of Paterno’s passing.
Then at 8:57 p.m., a Paterno family spokesperson emailed the Associated Press claiming that the reports of Paterno’s passing are “absolutely not true.” That was followed by both of Paterno’s sons, Jay and Scott, tweeting that Joe Paterno was still alive, and still fighting.
Jay and Scott Paterno did say he was in “serious condition,” but at that point in time, he was still alive.
I’m shocked at CBS Sports for falsely reporting the death. Why? There are a few reasons this happened: the reporter/editor in charge of the report didn’t do their homework, they had an unreliable source or a combination of both.
Isn’t double-checking sources one of the first things you learn in journalism classes? I know that was one of the biggest things preached to me when I was sitting in class.
Isn’t a reporter’s job to accurately report the news? Or is that a thing of the past? Has Twitter really made being the first to report more important than being right?
CBS Sports felt it was more important to be first than to be right. They acted in complete unprofessional fashion. It’s unbelievable.
To make matters worse for CBS Sports, they updated their report 9:30 p.m. In the updated story, they claim “Penn State student website Onward State has reported that Penn State players were notified of longtime head coach Joe Paterno’s passing via email, and CBSSports.com went on this report.”
Wait, Penn State student website Onward State? Where was this mention in the original report? So let me get this right. CBS Sports, a professional media outlet, used a student blog as their source for the passing of Joe Paterno, and they didn’t credit the source?
I believe that’s plagiarism—at least, that’s what I’ve been taught.
But that’s neither here or there. That’s not what ticks me off the most about this. What grinds my gears about it is that it strongly appears like CBS Sports is blaming the student website for the report of Paterno’s passing.
While it originally was Onward State’s story, CBS Sports still passed it off as their own. They put it on their website. They are the ones who tweeted it. They’re the ones who are nationally recognized as a media outlet.
They’re the ones who made this “report” seem legit.
Yet, to my knowledge, CBS Sports hasn’t taken responsibility for their actions. No apology has been published. Not a single sorry to the Paterno family or anyone close to Joe Pa.
Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They passed the blame along to someone else. Don’t you think you owe someone an apology, CBS Sports? I think you do.
How about this: Onward State’s managing editor has decided to step down after the erroneous report of Paterno’s passing. See, he gets it. I’m not asking for the editor who approved the report from CBS Sports to be fired or to step down.
What I’m asking is some flipping professional behavior. Man up and apologize for the amateur acts you committed Saturday night.
Because Joe Paterno deserves better.