April Fools’ Joke . . . Gone Awry: Onward State ‘Kills’ Former Editor Who Mistakenly ‘Killed’ Joe Paterno

In a faux breaking news report posted this morning, Onward State announced the sudden death of former managing editor Devon Edwards due to an animal attack that left him with “severe lacerations and subsequent blood loss.”

Staffers there apparently meant the write-up as a joke, but it has instead quickly morphed into the first high-profile student press April Fools’ prank of 2012 to go hideously awry.

As I previously posted, Edwards suddenly resigned earlier this semester from Onward State.  The resignation came hours after the online student news outlet at Penn State University mistakenly reported that former PSU head football coach Joe Paterno had died from lung cancer.  In a series of tweets and a report on its site on a Saturday evening in late January, Onward State offered the first apparent confirmation of Paterno’s death.

It was quickly picked up by CBS Sports and other media worldwide.  Subsequent conflicting reports and statements from a family spokesman and one of Paterno’s sons led to a retraction, Edwards’s resignation, and a full explanation and apology.  (Full Storify here.)

Today, Onward State is apologizing for killing Edwards, a spoof that a majority of Happy Valley webizens are decrying as “umm not funny,” too soon, and lacking tact.  A sampling of tweet reactions are featured below, beginning with an OS tweet expressing regret about what I imagine was a well-intentioned joke that has fallen epically flat, fast.


Onward State Joe Paterno Death Error Saga: Complete Storify

My Take on the Onward State Paterno Death Error Fiasco

5 Responses to “April Fools’ Joke . . . Gone Awry: Onward State ‘Kills’ Former Editor Who Mistakenly ‘Killed’ Joe Paterno”
  1. I might be in the minority who says there might be some room to forgive OS for the Paterno error. But I have to be in the majority who says what OS did today was in absolute poor taste.

  2. Dan says:

    No, no, I think you are absolutely in the majority. The Paterno Death Error was an unfortunate mistake, one that deserves forgiveness. Today’s leap back into that incident strikes me as just disappointing. On a podcast awhile back with Bill Simmons, comedian Jeffrey Ross pointed out that the jokes that cause the most controversy don’t work because they are simply not funny. Almost anything can be satirized or broached if the joke is told well. This one, it’s clear, was not.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Onward State editors also are apologizing after posting an April Fool’s breaking news story announcing the death of their former editor. The editor previously resigned after falsely reporting to the Penn State community that Joe Paterno was dead before the former football coach actually died. The editors apologize for the joke after being called “tactless” and being told it was “too soon,” according to a post about the issue on College Media Matters. […]

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