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Thinking first or acting first? A journalistic dilemma

Posted by on Jan 22, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


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

• False paterno death reports highlight journalists’ hunger for glory 

• College news site that misreported Jo Paterno death heralded as future of student media

• What happened last night 

• The Paterno story: what went wrong

• Onward State Facebook page

• The news and retractions of Joe Paterno’s 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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