I first saw the news via an online news Twitter account around 8.40pm on Monday 2 October - rock singer Tom Petty had suffered cardiac arrest and was seriously ill.

Shortly afterwards, a number of Twitter accounts I follow reported that he had died.

Major news organisations, including RTÉ soon disseminated the story themselves – some using the clarifying words "it has been reported" or "reports from the US say".

Social media response was swift, fellow artists tweeted their condolences while fans shared memories and links to his music.

We are used to death in the social media age, we hear about it immediately and are participants in a public grieving process.

And then, at around 10pm, there was a change.

Petty was not dead, as the internet told us, but gravely ill. "Clinging to life", to use the phrasing of one organisation.

RTÉ re-filed the story accordingly.

Some hours later Petty’s death was confirmed by his management, on behalf of his family, when a formal message was placed on his website and Twitter account.

The initial misinformation seems to have come from a police source, and the LAPD later tweeted that some information was "inadvertently provided to some media sources".

The misinformation appears to have been a mistake, not a malicious act, but in the age of internet news mistakes are much more visible. When news travels around the world in the blink of an eye there is little room for human error.

So what can be learned from this situation? For the most part, a simple reiteration of basic journalistic principles.

Stories should have more than one source.

The source in this case, a police service in LA seemed impeccable, but it was still only one source. And, crucially, it was not a source close to the family.

In the case of reported death, it is always best to hear the news from the family themselves.

As Arts and Media Correspondent in the RTÉ newsroom, I report on the deaths of many public figures. If that person is Irish then confirming the death is usually straightforward.

We are a small country, and people know each other. It is usually possible to speak to a family member, or someone who is close to a family member, to confirm that the death has occurred.

When the public figure is an international one, things get more complicated.

When stories about the death of David Bowie began to swirl online at 6:30am one morning, my immediate instinct was to disregard them - he was still a relatively young man and it had not been reported that he was ill.

However, 20 minutes later his son tweeted that the story was true. Duncan Jones is a well-known filmmaker with the "blue tick" on Twitter which means his account is his own.

A modern confirmation, but one that actually fulfills the traditional journalistic model - he was a family member confirming the sad news.

What happened in the case of Tom Petty was regrettable and unfortunate; however I do not consider it to have been "fake news".

To me, fake news is a story deliberately disseminated to mislead. This was an honest mistake based on someone trusting a usually-reliable source.

However, a phone call to his family or management could have avoided an unfortunate situation.

Honest mistakes happen and will always happen, but they are far more visible now.

In times of doubt, journalists need to remember the basic rule; speed is important, but accuracy more so.