At around 8:45 pm on January 21, 2012 CBS reported that Joe Paterno had died, the report even contained an exact time of death. Shortly after CBS reported this, Onward State passed this information onto its followers, most of whom are Penn State students, alumni, and fans. Consequently both Twitter and Facebook exploded with the news of Joe Paterno's death. Within minutes Joe Paterno was the number one trending topic on twitter (two hours later as I write this, it still is). Everyone thought he was dead, for the next twelve minutes anyway.
At 8:57 pm the first sign of doubt arose on twitter New York times reporter Mark Viera Tweeted "Dan McGinn, the Paterno family spokesman, at 8:57 p.m. on reports about Joe Paterno's death: "Absolutely not true." This news took longer to spread then the news saying that he was dead. Over the next half hour this story slowly got noticed. It was passed on by The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, and many others followed up with this report. This cast doubt upon the story originally laid out by CBS. Most people however still believed he had passed away. Shortly after that, Jay Paterno tweeted "I appreciate the support & prayers. Joe is continuing to fight." and Scott Paterno tweeted "CBS report is wrong - Dad is alive but in serious condition. We continue to ask for your prayers and privacy during this time." Once these tweets spread and reached major outlets and the masses, the rumor was officially debunked. It took some time for this message to get out, but Onward State almost immediately after the Paterno tweets apologized for their error and declared Joe Paterno is still alive. Word spread quickly and about an hour after it came out, the rumor was dead as was CBS’ credibility.
Once word came out Joe was still alive, CBS had an opportunity to apologize and try to redeem themselves, instead they managed to dig their own hole deeper. Once receiving the information that Joe Paterno was alive, Onward State almost immediately swallowed their pride and apologized for their false report, later their editor in chief resigned. Onward State is primarily ran by college students and they showed more maturity and accountability than CBS, a large, trusted, national news station. CBS took a different course of action, their first step was to say there previous story saying Paterno is questionable, despite it already being proven false. Once they finally realized the report was false, CBS could not simply swallow their pride and admit their error, instead they decided to play the blame game. Their next move was to blame Onward State for their misreport, despite the fact CBS reported his “death” before Onward State. CBS has also never revealed its source for their story, yet they blame someone that reported after they did as misinformation from their source. CBS has now stopped trying to blame Onward State, presumably because people saw through their shenanigan. This saga is not over for CBS there is understandably outrage directed at them for such a horrible erroneous report. Heads at CBS should roll for such a horrible display of ethics and journalism. Joe Paterno did not die tonight, but the credibility of CBS along with the fundamentals of journalism did.