Twitter is a great source for information, but also can be a source of confusion when breaking news is happening. I understand the need to get information out for public interest and the completive nature of getting the scoop, but isn’t it best to say very little until the facts are developed?
Over and over again breaking news hits Twitter. The platform is littered with speculation during that time. We need to be very cautious with breaking news on Twitter. The attitude still exists that if it is typed up on the Internet, then it must be true. We may not be getting the full picture based on these 140 characters with or without links. People on all sides of a conflict or situation are using social media to get their views out. And there could be biases at play. While this isn’t new, biases have always been out there due to the speed of social media, the vetting process is often either shortened or circumvented. Verifying content is a massive issue facing news organizations today. Before social media, checks and balances would have been used to verify stories before they were reported to the public. Today, content is bypassing traditional media and entering the public sphere without those pre-checks. It is being openly discussed and analyzed in real-time.
News organizations must determine how much to report on any given content. The fact that people are talking about posted content and are sharing it makes it part of the story. The race to break news first has led many news organizations to be conflicted. Think of recent examples: Boston Bombing, Navy Yard shooting, and LAX shooting. And now add Malaysia Airlines 17 crash to the list. If a news organization runs an unverified photograph, video, or breaking news, it gives the content weight that it may not deserve.
Twitter is a great channel to solicit interest and quickly inform, but it has to lead somewhere. News organizations need to have facts first then develop the story. One source doesn’t verify information. More sources are needed to validate an event and what is going on. When there is breaking news, I want to know who, what, where, and how. I want the story not fragments of it that keep changing by the moment. I’m willing to wait; solid facts are worth the wait.
Spreading of misinformation on Twitter will not help, but hurts the trustworthiness of news outlets. Let’s return to solid news gathering. Too many are falling into the breaking news trap on Twitter.
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