CBSSports.com has terminated the employment of a blogger at its website following a story that he wrote prematurely reporting the death of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Adam Jacobi confirmed the dismissal via his Twitter account Friday.
“I had an awesome 17 months with CBSSports.com. I'm sorry to everyone, most importantly the Paterno family, for how it ended. In the end, CBS had to let me go for the Paterno story going out the way it did, and I understand completely. Thanks, everyone, for reading.”
On the evening of Saturday January 21, Jacobi, citing the Penn State student newspaper Onward State, reported that the coach had passed away. Jacobi’s report identified the source of the report as a tweet from the publication. However, that publication later issued a retraction, apologized for the error and the managing editor resigned.
That led to CBS issuing its own retraction and pulling the original story from its website.
The blowback against the news organization was intense (and this blogger threw plenty of flammables their way during that affair), but the vitriol was rightly aimed at the news organization. It was not aimed at the blogger who did what bloggers do—cite a reliable source in reporting what he thought to be an accurate story.
If CBSSports.com wants to be “blog forward,” then the organization needs to accept the accountability that comes with participating in such a fast-moving environment. Ironically, as blogs are striving to become more like professional news organizations, those organizations are striving to become more like blogs. What was CBSSports.com thinking when it hired several widely read bloggers from different sports and fansites? Did they think they’d be able to speed up news delivery and not increase the risk that in the zeal to get it first, someone might get a big one wrong?
Meanwhile, “senior writers” like Dennis Dodd, Gregg Doyel and Brett McMurphy are free to make stuff up as they go along. Need a quote to provide background and texture to a hit piece on Les Miles? Make one up and stick it in there, crediting an anonymous source. Need to twist a fact or two to drive home a point or further an agenda? No problem—jump to a bogus conclusion without any factual basis and get it in there.
If I tried to pull crap like that here, my colleagues in the blogosphere would rip me to shreds. Dodd, Doyel, McMurphy? They all pat each other on the back, retweet links to each other’s stories and offer patronizing condolences to the Adam Jacobi’s who do a better job of news reporting than they do. Oh, and let’s not forget how important it is to chum it up and get schmoozy with sports information directors at schools under NCAA scrutiny.
“Am I sick? Are we all sick?”
Yes sir, you are. Jacobi made a mistake and got a story wrong. Your sins with the truth are premeditated and intentional.