Gail Shister: Many say I killed Joe Paterno

That’s what I tweeted two months ago after Gail Shister wrote that “as macabre as this sounds, it may be time to start the Joe Paterno Death Watch.” The veteran TV critic said then:

For some men of national stature, particularly those whose level of excellence has endured for decades, their work defines their being.

Gail Shister

When that ends, for whatever reason, their bodies give up, sometimes in a matter of weeks.

Shister says she received “a flood of vitriolic email” after her column was posted and that “‘Shame on you’ was the most-used phrase, or at least the most-used that could be spoken in polite company.” Some readers, she adds, wished for her own death. She writes in today’s post:

I take no joy in Joe Paterno’s death. That he died so soon after his sudden dismissal gives me no pleasure, either. I never met the man, but I have boundless respect for his accomplishments and his philosophy. His downfall was of Macbethian proportions.

* I killed Joe Paterno
* Earlier: Joe Paterno on Death Watch?



1 comment
  1. Bill Reader said:

    When I was opinion-page editor at the Centre Daily Times in State College in the late ’90s, we had a very quiet but serious “death watch” for the legendary coach. All of the information needed to run a full-page obit was compiled and updated from time to time, and I imagine that practical bit of journalistic preparedness continued into the 2000s as well.

    It was never a matter of disrespect, and certainly not a matter of wishful thinking, but at the time the man was in his 70s and was the single most visible person in the community. It would have been foolish for the newspaper to not have an obit-in-progress on such an important local person, but it would have been even more foolish to announce that preparedness plan to the community.

    Gail Shister should not be at all surprised at the negative response she received for her original column, and I find the scolding tone and implied finger-wagging of her most recent post to be unwarranted. Many of the comments she received expressed very legitimate and reasonable criticism, including this one: “With all due respect Ms. Shister, this is in extremely poor taste and I’m quite surprised your superiors allowed this garbage to go to print. This is a disgrace to journalism… .” Another: “Wow. This is taking this just TOO far. It’s amazing what people like you will do for a headline. You should be ashamed.”

    The original column made a number of good points, but the arguably exploitative nature of the “death watch” lead and headline undermined its integrity from the start, in my opinion. The “death watch” line was insensitive, and it should be no surprise that many of the responses were insensitive in return.