First headline not the best

Posted on January 23, 2012 

I want to thank readers who've sent notes of concern about the initial headline posted online about Joe Paterno's death on Sunday morning.

That headline, and first story, was sent out by the Associated Press and was moved into the top spot on our website. The headline, like all AP headlines, are written for a wide audience, in this case the world. 

The headline didn't apply here, in a great Penn State community that is mourning Paterno's passing. We understand that completely.

We worked to change the headline as soon as we could and we posted local content. But it's clearly a lesson learned. I was in Penn Station in New York when this news broke and when I saw the website on the train I immediately asked for a headline change.

Again I appreciate all notes.

We also got notes about Saturday night, when our desk posted a story sourced to CBS about Paterno's death. This story stayed online for a short time, and immediately when the family send out the note it was taken down.

This has been a difficult time in every way since this scandal broke, and we have posted stories sourcing other news organizations. In the past they have been confirmed; this was not the case.

I was following developments on my iPhone Saturday night, along with a group of editors in New York. It seems every phone found this CBS report somewhere. This mistake, which started with a local student site post, was heartbreaking. It is a lesson learned here.

I am truly sorry these two missteps occurred and really wish I had been local rather than in New York to assist the staff with web and other work. It was the worst of timing.

But this has been happening with increasing frequency around the country, as all kinds of news sources, and individual posters, are popping up.

I was in New York for the Associated Press Media Editors' board meeting, and we plan to take the lead in this area in helping journalists understand what is going on, what they can do in an increasing first-matters, social and mobile news world.

We'll unveil social media credibility webinars for journalists this spring, based on industry-leading research conducted at some papers around the country late last year. And we'll hold several sessions on these issue at our national conference in Nashville in September.

Again, I thank online readers for notes of concern and appreciate all comments. 

I hope all readers appreciate today's keepsake tribute section to Paterno. We're proud to feature in the paper. 

-- Bob Heisse

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