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about 3 years ago
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An Apology from the Managing Editor of Onward State

Earlier this evening, Onward State reported that Joe Paterno had passed away; however, the mountain of evidence stacked opposite that report became too much to ignore. At this time, I would like to issue an official retraction of our earlier tweets.

I never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State might be cited by the national media. Today, I sincerely wish it never had been. To all those who read and passed along our reports, I sincerely apologize for having mislead you. To the Penn State community and to the Paterno family, most of all, I could not be more sorry for the emotional anguish I am sure we at Onward State caused. There are no excuses for what we did. We all make mistakes, but it’s impossible to brush off one of this magnitude. Right now, we deserve all of the criticism headed our way.

In this day and age, getting it first often conflicts with getting it right, but our intention was never to fall into that chasm. All I can do now is promise that in the future, we will exercise caution, restraint, and humility.

I can only hope and pray that the outstanding work our writers and photographers do on a day-to-day basis is not overshadowed by the events of tonight. I understand that our reputation is in serious question, but I hope you will continue to stand by us as we do everything in our power to make amends.

To begin that process, I will be stepping down from my post as Managing Editor, effective immediately. I take full responsibility for the events that transpired tonight, and for the black mark upon the organization that I have caused.

I ask not for your forgiveness, but for your understanding. I am so very, very, sorry, and we at Onward State continue to pray for Coach Paterno.

Sincerely,

Devon Edwards

138 Responses to “An Apology from the Managing Editor of Onward State”

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Kyle Barnoff says:

Dude, you are not responsible for what the ‘national media’ or other organizations report. Don’t let anyone bully you for their mistakes (not confiming your report). Admit your mistake, move on, and most importantly, stand up for yourself.

kent says:

My guess is someone at Onward heard that the family was taking Coach Paterno off life support, or something to that effect, and they misunderstood the message.  I feel bad for this Devon guy and I think he showed great character in admitting to a mistake (albeit by a few hours).  Joe Pa was a great guy and PS BOT’s ego got in the way of holding off on making a more informed decision that now looks more and more to be a completely incorrect decision.

Johnwiz2 says:

So it goes, lessons learned……perfect example of journalism 101 verify don’t be first then apologize. Be a agent of change in today’s irresponsible media and fake journalism. LEARN

Nate says:

It’s ironic that the editor is resigning over a careless error while reporting on a man who helped to cover up a deliberate, systematic abuse of children. The editor should be held up as an example of taking responsibility for one’s actions as opposed to cowering beneath the cover of feigned ignorance.

Sharon Myers says:

This was a very bad error in judgment but the way the correction was made was incredibly refreshing. There were no ‘buts’, just an acceptance of the error. Too bad our other leaders cannot handle their mistakes in this way.

Kyle Barnoff says:

I find it amusing that you think you know, and can therefore judge, Paterno’s involvement with the cover up.

Rick Johnson says:

I think you’re probably close to what really happened, Kent. Perhaps the message was that “he is all but dead now” (as crass as that sounds).

I do find it … what’s the word?… amazing that the family spokesman (how many families have a “spokesman” anyway?) AND his son’s were, what… MONITORING TWITTER? And with their dad (as we certainly know now) in the throes of his last living moments, they had the time to be punching in replies on their iPhones?

Stick around, Devon. You jumped the gun, but you didn’t commit an unforgivable sin.

Kyle Barnoff says:

Because browsing their twitter accounts is the only explanation.

I find it highly UNLIKELY a friend or two would text me with condolences if people began saying my dad had died in the NEWS (who would do such a thing?). Additionaly if they were misinformed I would NEVER take 30 seconds to correct the misinformed via twitter. SO MUCH TIME. After all, I’d rather the world think my father was dead. After a bit of practice you might be surprised how slow you can tweet on those iPhones! Haha. Geez.

YeahISaidItSoWhat? says:

“To much is given, much is required”.  You get once chance to be a SUCCESSFULl “Top Dog” and none have made it without making mistakes.  One thing is for sure…Devon will never jump the gun again before launching a story.  Lesson learned. 

P.S. Since Newt “Teflon” Gingrich can be accepted for the lout he is, there shouldn’t be a problem with the editor’s reinstatement.   FREE DEVON!

Andy says:

Your acceptance of responsibility puts you in a class of character far above anything we’ve seen from the national media over the past six months. I would venture to say that I think Coach would be proud of you.

Jana says:

Anyone can scroll through these posts and see I was posting on this topic late last night, 1-2 in the morning.  I posted that this seemed like the situation with the Pope, when EVERYONE in the press knew he was on his deathbed, and some media outlets reported he was dead, ONLY BEING WRONG BY A FEW HOURS.  No one was fired or quit because of that reporting AND THEY WERE ALL PROFESSIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS.  I stayed up late, because I believed the death of was very close, and sure enough, by the time I awoke this afternoon, he had passed.  This mistake HAPPENS people, in situations where someone is gravely ill, or shot, like Reagan was, and incorrect stories of his passing also happened by  BIG NAMES in the media.  No one resigned over that either.   This kid is still in school, still LEARNING, as we all do throughout our lives.   Learning continues well past your formal education, it is life long.  Give this young journalist another chance. 

Islandersb says:

I would like to see Joe Paterno’s official death certificate and see the time the doctor’s pronounced him dead. If the time of death is on or before the time Devon Edwards broke the first report of Paterno’s passing then he needs to get his job back and be issued an apology. If Paterno had hung on a few more days this would not even be debatable, but he was indeed confirmed to have died within a few hours of Edwards Tweet. Perhaps Edwards was right and the Paterno was dead and the Paterno Family PR Machine didn’t want the story broke to the world in that manner. Let’s settle any question on this and see the time of death listed on Joe Pa’s death certificate.

Islandersb says:

PS:  My late mother worked as an emergency room triage nurse in a NYC Level 1 trauma hospital. I can state for a fact that death announcements of major figures are often delayed sometimes for hours until the family agrees to release this information publicly. Many times my mother told me such and such a famous person died on her watch and I knew this information hours before it was reported in the media. Is there a chance Devon Edwards got credible information on Joe Paterno’s passing from a hospital source in the know before the Paterno family had their media ducks in order and had a statement ready? You bet it’s possible. I think the only fair way to handle this is to see the actual death certificate and check Joe Pa’s officially recorded time of passing. If it’s within minutes of when Edwards launched his first Tweet I say give him the benefit of the doubt and give him his job back. Joe Paterno would want fairness for Devon Edwards as well. Let’s settle it now. How about a Freedom of Information Law request anyone?

R says:

I admire your courage and accept your apology, but it’s a mistake that never should have been made. Penn State has been through a lot of anguish at the hands of the media, but I never would have imagined that Penn State students would add to this. You clearly did not learn any lessons from the irresponsible journalism that plagued our great institution this fall. 

You deserve to lose your job, Devon. However, I give you a lot of credit for realizing your mistake, apologizing, and doing the right thing. That is something Penn State can be proud of.
-Richard Robinson
Class of 2012

P says:

I doubt that’s possible due to a little law called HIPAA, where hospital staff are not able to discuss such things that relinquish patients’ privacy.  If a hospital source came out with the news, I sure hope that they were fired on the spot if that’s the case (and I’m kind of surprised your mother was not).

kent says:

@R….This Devon guy did not “lose” his job.  He voluntarily “resigned” because he made a mistake as “the editor” of your online newspaper, and the mistake now seems small in the scheme of things…Coach Paterno passed away only a few hours after Devon’s sources inaccurately told him Coach Paterno had done so.  His sources must have known something, perhaps knowing the plug had been pulled on life support, but did not realize Coach Paterno’s heart would still continue to beat for a few more hours.  (No disrespect intended here).

Journalist says:

Devon – I am sorry for the hard lesson. In my opinion, however, you should not resign. Your apology is impressive for its honestly and humility. Journalism needs traits like this. You push hard for the truth, but in the event you make a mistake, own up to it, learn from it and move on. You will be a far better managing editor for Onward State now as a result of this experience. And a person the journalism industry would be lucky to have.

Rebecca says:

Ha! Starting journalists are LUCKY if they make $30,000 a year, let alone have a job at all. It makes teacher salaries look reaaalll good. 

Honest says:

Honestly, Irony abounds. Mr. Edwards criticized the Wall Street Journal as a piece of “journalistic garbage:” http://onwardstate.com/2011/11/22/shame-on-you-wall-street-journal/#comments and previously wrote posts citing “anonymous sources close to the athletic department” titled “news” which seemed to be very much “opinion.” See here: http://onwardstate.com/2011/11/09/spanier-and-paterno-clash-extends-beyond-charges/

It’s just a shame; because this isn’t the first time that this has happened; it’s just the first time he’s been caught. 

While I believe he’s truly remorseful, I think he needs a serious gut check on the decorum and professional integrity that even Coach Paterno would espouse and encourage to succeed with “success with honor.” 

However; despite what seems not to be a singular case, but symtpoms of a larger journalistic style, the grace, class and dignity you showed after making the mistake was bar none. 

All the best, Mr. Edwards and the OnwardState team.

Mark says:

Sadly, unfortunately too many students do treat college as though it was not real life (witness the rioters NOV ’11).  When you publish the death of a very prominent figure this comes with a great deal of responsibility.  Lesson learned.

Mark says:

Amazing, you have this all figured ot.  We could’ve just come to you instead of there being 3 (or 4?) grand jury investigations.  And a court hearing, he needs a court hearing when we have you?

student says:

Devon, it’s clear that all these people hating are just from the Collegian. I ALWAYS turn to os first, and will continue to because you guys show that you care about the news, not just boosting rating (do I need to remind anyone from the collegian about the sex columns). Anyways, keep your head up, OS.

Anthony Coggins (Flint, MI) says:

Devon:

Congratulations on being a stand-up man and taking responsibility for the error.  Whether or not it was “your call” it is obvious you follow the words of Harry Truman…”The buck stops here.”  Your honesty and integrity will carry you far in life.  From a University of Michigan alum, I wish you the best.  For all in Happy Valley and the Penn State family, our prayers are with you.

dc says:

A hard lesson for all at Onward State. Your professors no doubt drilled you on sourcing. A call to the hospital would have save you all the embarrassment that you now well deserve.

Islandersb says:

Dear P:

Well my late mother did not release the information to anyone but me and she trusted me enough to know I would not say anything to endanger her job. I recall when the late Shah of Iran died in her hospital I was visiting at the time and we were eating in the employee lounge when all CODE staff was called to the Shah’s bedside. My mom returned an hour later and told me the Shah had died. Driving home some three hours later and listening to WCBS Newsradio 88 I heard them break into their programing with the network bulletin that The Shah of Iran has died. I thought to myself “Boy are they late on that one”. 

All I am saying is there is a possible chance the PR machine in place for the Paterno family was not ready to make that announcement and did not want Onward State to be the breaking source. If Joe’s passing were not so close to Mr. Edwards report I’d say it was irresponsible journalism, but it was indeed very close. Devon Edwards MAY have had accurate information and the Paterno family can easily put this to rest by releasing the death certificate.

HIPPA Laws do not preclude requesting a copy of the official hosital death certificate. Personal information like addresses etc can be redacted but the actual time of passing is not private information and is available under F.O.I.L. 

psudad says:

In today’s media, everything is electronic, and it seems seldom edited in any way, even by the author/reporter.  With such instantaneous reporting, mistakes of this nature have and will happen more frequently.

So much of current “news” is simply reporting what others have said as if it was (is) fact.  Thus, beyond referencing the sources upon which the reporter relies, information, often wrong in many respects, if not entirely false get perpetuated.

Onward State is a great source of information and opinion.  Much of what is reported is well enough written, usually thoughtful, but also doubtless full of mistakes.  I for one care very little if the information reported on this site was erroneous.  I was not harmed in any way, and I suspect that the Paterno family, whose focus doubtless was on Joe’s actual medical situation, was probably not adversely affected either. 

This situation differs markedly from inaccurate stories that attack some one for something they did not do, based on questionable sources or opinions expressed elsewhere.  Thus, for example, attacks on Coach Paterno’s integrity, (which did not appear on Onward State) based as they are on very little actual information, can I think be distinguished from this case, where the error did not really hurt anyone, was not ill intended and will have no lasting impact.

Resign if you must.  However, you and your colleagues have created a truly worthwhile “publication” for which you should be justifiably proud.  The mistake for which you have apologized has no adverse impact on you or the product of your labors.

Elliot Berton, Class of 1985

GTWMA says:

No, it would not.  The hospital cannot provie any such information or even acknowledge the patient’s presence in the hospital to reporters from Onward State.  A call to the hospital would have gotten them nowhere.

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