When disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died Sunday at the age of 85, many observers took interest in which legacy would be emphasized in the obituaries — his 46-year tenure as a well-loved head coach, or his failure in the eyes of many to appropriately respond to the reported sexual abuses of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
But Paterno's death — particularly the misinformed early reports that began streaming in early Saturday evening, hours before the death was confirmed Sunday — revealed as much about the outlets doing the reporting as the man being reported on.
The news of Paterno's death was first falsely reported by a Penn State student-run online publication (the editor of which later quit over the incident) and then spread widely across reputable news sources before being denied outright by the Paterno family.
Said Penn State student paper managing editor Devon Edwards of the mistake: "In this day and age, getting it first often conflicts with getting it right, but our intention was never to fall into that chasm."
The rapid spread of misinformation has raised questions about the perils of being first at the cost of being right, and brought the Slow News movement (no relation to Slow Food) again to the forefront.
With some experts arguing that the future of investigative journalism, at least, lies in perhaps the slowest medium ever — non-fiction publishing — does Paterno's death make a case for slowing things down?
As former washingtonpost.com editor Jim Brady put it, "If you’re right and first, no one remembers. If you’re first and wrong, everyone remembers.”
Tell us: Do you expect your news organizations to have the news first, or to have it right?