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Thinking first or acting first? A journalistic dilemma

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Lessons abound following the death this morning – and premature reports of it – of Penn State football legend Joe Paterno.

We raised the ethical question of print first versus verify first in October with our Ethical Guidelines for scholastic media, prepared in conjunction with JEA’s Digitial Media Committee.

Is it better to break news and correct as needed, or verify first and be sure of what you report?

Monday, when classes restart, we can only hope there will be significant discussion on all the ethical issues, as well of those of the available technology that bring those issues to the forefront.

For that class discussion, we would recommend the following links:

• How false reports of Joe Paterno’s death were spread and debunked
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/160270/how-false-reports-of-joe-paternos-death-were-spread-and-debunked/

• False paterno death reports highlight journalists’ hunger for glory
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/regret-the-error/160277/false-paterno-death-reports-highlight-journalists-hunger-for-glory/ 

• College news site that misreported Jo Paterno death heralded as future of student media
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/160280/college-news-site-that-misreported-joe-paterno-death-heralded-as-future-of-student-media/

• What happened last night
http://onwardstate.com/2012/01/22/what-happened-last-night/ 

• The Paterno story: what went wrong
http://blog.breakingnews.com/post/16271185670/the-paterno-story-what-went-wrong

• Onward State Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/OnwardState

• The news and retractions of Joe Paterno’s death told through Storify
http://www.jeadigitalmedia.org/2012/01/22/the-news-and-retractions-of-joe-paternos-death-told-through-storify/

Whether we talk of the ethical or technological issues first, it should be abundantly clear we must also discuss the social responsibility role of the media with this story.

If we of scholastic media learn from those in commercial or citizen media, what we learn – and practice – must go beyond the how to include the why.

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