9 Dec 1979: Quarterback Ken Stabler of the Oakland Raiders prepares to pass the ball during a game against the Cleveland Browns at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Raiders won the game 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Allsport /A

On Thursday afternoon, the Tuscaloosa News reported that former Alabama and Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had passed away at the age of 69.

The original story has been deleted, but it lives on in tweets.

Then, they retracted the report and admitted to accidentally running an unconfirmed story.

Preparing to report on an unconfirmed but wide and persistent rumor that former Alabama football player Kenny Stabler had died, tuscaloosanews.com inadvertently and briefly published an incomplete story that we were preparing in the event that the story was confirmed. At this time, it is not confirmed. Unfortunately, other news outlets used social media to share the report. We regret the error and any emotional distress caused to Stabler’s family, friends and fans.

The reporter involved, Aaron Suttles, took to Twitter to issue an apology.

Early this afternoon I received confirmation that former University of Alabama quarterback and Oakland Raider great Kenny Stabler passed away in Gulfport, Miss. My news organization, The Tuscaloosa News, requires that I obtain two, independent sources before I report any news. Being correct always takes precedent over being first in our newsroom. While I attempted to obtain the second, independent source, our web administrator accidentally published a rough draft of my story. He quickly realized his error, and took the story down immediately. Unfortunately our system is set up to tweet any new stories that are published. By the time the story was deleted, the tweet had gone out and the cat was out of the bag.

I’ve worked my entire career to earn your trust. I apologize that we failed you today. But most of all I apologize to the Stabler family. There is no excuse for what happened today. Our news organization takes full responsibility for our error.

We’ve seen this happen numerous times before in the rush to be “first” rather than being right – PeleJim Fregosi, Emanuel Steward, and Joe Paterno were reported to be dead when they weren’t (or in the case of Pele, still isn’t) at the time, while the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Adrian Robinson and Steve Montador were misreported.

No one will remember who was “first” in breaking any of these stories – and yet, outlets continue to rush and make sure they’re first rather than being accurate. Even if this situation was exacerbated by an overzealous administrator, it’s still the continuation of a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Stabler’s death has been reported by another local outlet in Alabama, citing the president of Stabler’s foundation and his ex-wife. *That* report still hasn’t been confirmed by the Tuscaloosa News.

[Tuscaloosa News]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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