Media outlets need to remember to check the facts

Cathryn Frear, Staff Writer

Most everyone has heard of the cliché “he jumped the gun.”  What the receiver is meant to infer in a literal sense is someone pulling the trigger of a gun before they know what’s going on.  What it implies in a figurative sense is someone did or said something before they had their facts straight.

This really needs to stop.  Plain and simple.  It only serves to create myths, confusion and anger.  Occasionally, it creates a pretty funny story.

A perfect example of this is the “Joe Pa is dead” fiasco a couple weeks ago.  The Onward State site reported this rumor to the public, as well as emailed football players informing them of Paterno’s passing.  CBS soon reported their own story independent of Onward State stating the same thing.  Then, as many of us saw, it made it to Facebook.  Since Joe Paterno’s death was Facebook official, the rumor was good enough for people, who hadn’t even heard it on a news outlet, to believe it.

It was everywhere.  If you weren’t watching the news or on Facebook, you likely got a text or e-mail all about the situation.

Reporting a public figure’s death is one thing.  Incorrectly reporting a public figure’s death is a horse of a completely different color.  Onward State had absolutely no confirmation Paterno had passed. They only knew that he had been taken off of the respirator.  All anyone knew for sure was he was literally on his death bed.  Speculation is his death was reported so quickly because Onward State wanted to be the first to report on it.

This isn’t the first time a major story was incorrect when it broke.  Most of us probably don’t remember 1948, but many of us have heard about an event which took place.  The economy baby boomers were on the rise.  And because it was divisible by four, 1948 was an election year.

On the morning of Nov.3, Chicago Daily Tribune announced Thomas E. Dewey as the new President Elect of the United States of America.  If you don’t remember President Dewey, you are not alone, because he was never president. Harry S. Truman was declared the actual president elect.  In fact, the most popular image of this just so happens to be Truman holding up a copy of the incorrect Tribune article and stating “That ain’t how I heard it!”

That story was a bigger deal than Paterno’s death, for pretty obvious reasons.  This was a story reporting on the next ‘leader of the free world.’  Luckily, word had spread pretty quickly that the story was false and only a small minority was under the impression Dewey actually won.

The worst part of Paterno’s story being incorrectly reported is it gave off an image of the media which told their audience, “We don’t care about facts; we just want a good story.”

It was disrespectful of a man’s death to glorify his latest scandal to sell a story.  It’s irresponsible to run a story without confirming facts.  It’s unreal how we have advanced in technology so much, yet advanced in basic human decency so little.