Photo: Screengrab from Onward State
Companies screw up all the time, and have to write up statements to apologise for their mistakes. But all too frequently, the apologies are weak, conditional and completely insincere.Saturday night, a kid from a little student-run website at Penn State showed everybody how you’re supposed to apologise for a terrible mistake.
The news was picked up by CBS Sports without attribution, and published an obituary of Paterno. It spread nationally from there (check out Poynter’s full breakdown of how things went down).
Turns out, it wasn’t true. The Paterno family debunked the report, and Onward State made an official retraction.
This is how you apologise for a mistake:
A Letter from the Managing Editor of Onward State
Earlier this evening, Onward State reported that Joe Paterno had passed away; however, the mountain of evidence stacked opposite that report became too much to ignore. At this time, I would like to issue an official retraction of our earlier tweets.
I never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State might be cited by the national media. Today, I sincerely wish it never had been. To all those who read and passed along our reports, I sincerely apologise 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.
I can only hope and pray that the outstanding work our writers and photographers do on a day-to-day basis is not overshadowed by the events of tonight. I understand that our reputation is in serious question, but I hope you will continue to stand by us as we do everything in our power to make amends.
To begin that process, I will be stepping down from my post as Managing Editor, effective immediately. I take full responsibility for the events that transpired tonight, and for the black mark upon the organisation that I have caused.
I ask not for your forgiveness, but for your understanding. I am so very, very, sorry, and we at Onward State continue to pray for Coach Paterno.
There’s not a line of bull in there.
Did he need to resign? Perhaps not. Either way, it’s sincere, heartfelt and human. There are no conditions set, no distancing and no excuses. He screwed up, and he accepted full responsibility.
Why is it so hard for big-time CEOs (and media folks, for that matter) to do the same when something happens on their watch?
UPDATE: Onward State GM Davis Shaver posted an explanation of what happened Saturday night on the site:
But at around 8:00 p.m., one of our writers posted that he had received word from a source that Joe Paterno had died. The source had been forwarded an email ostensibly sent from a high-ranking athletics official (later found to be a hoax) to Penn State athletes with information of Paterno’s passing. A second writer — whom we later found out had not been honest in his information — confirmed to us that the email had been sent to football players. With two independent confirmations of an email announcing his death, managing editor Devon Edwards was confident in the story and hit send on the tweet we had written, informing the world that Joe Paterno had died.
UPDATE #2: Joe Paterno passed away Sunday morning. Here’s the statement from his family >
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