Saturday night was a very long night for Ward Melville alum Devon Edwards.
What started as a breaking news story of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s death, turned out to be a false report that lead to Edwards resigning from his position as managing editor of Onward State, a student-run media outlet in State College, Pa.
Onward State incorrectly reported that Paterno died and CBS Sports ran with the initial story, causing a digital media frenzy. Paterno’s sons, Jay and Scott, both used Twitter to deny the report, saying he was still in serious condition and fighting.
Paterno eventually passed away Sunday morning at the age of 85 from complications due to lung cancer.
The initial Onward State story said Penn State players were notified of Paterno’s death via email. Not long after, Edwards posted on Twitter that Onward State was confident in its initial report.
"We were confident when we ran with it, and are still trying to figure out where our process failed,” he wrote. “We apologize sincerely for error."
Edwards made an announcement on the site after that, saying he would step down immediately from his post at the publication.
“I never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State might be cited by the national media,” Edwards wrote. “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.”
After Edwards’ apology, CBSSports.com issued an apology on their platform.
“That mistake was the result of a failure to verify the original report,” said CBSSports.com Managing Editor Mark Swanson in the post. “CBSSports.com holds itself to high journalistic standards, and in this circumstance tonight, we fell well short of those expectations. CBSSports.com extends its profound and sincere apology to the Paterno family and the Penn State community during their difficult time.”
Paterno, who made headlines this fall in the wake of a child sex abuse case at Penn State involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, was diagnosed with lung cancer a week after he was dismissed as coach on November 9.
According to information on OnwardState.com, Edwards, who graduated from Ward Melville in 2008, is a senior majoring in sociology and political science, and joined the publication in January 2011.