News for Digital Journalists

January 10, 2011

Scott Rosenberg on correcting Twitter news errors

News errors happen, especially with fast-breaking stories. The speed of social media only amplifies this issue. Today, MediaBugs founder Scott Rosenberg offers excellent advice on how news organizations can take steps to correct their errors on Twitter…

In his post Correct, don’t delete, that erroneous tweet, Rosenberg noted that as news unfolded this weekend of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucscon, AZ, many news organizations erroneously reported that the Congresswoman had died. Some news orgs posted this error to Twitter—where the mistaken news quickly spread.

Lost Remote and Regret the Error offered excellent roundups of new org Twitter errors about the shooting. For instance, @Reuters tweeted that the Congresswoman had died, and later deleted that tweet. Meanwhile, NPR and BBC News left their errors in place.

In Boston, WBUR public broadcasting explained why they chose not to delete their tweet: “Because it serves as part of the narrative of this story.”

Rosenberg applauds WBUR’s approach and reasoning. He writes: “According to the chief argument in favor of tweet-deletion, if you leave a bad report lying around your feed, you’re tempting others to retweet it; if you delete, you’ll inhibit this viral repetition of misinformation. That’s a reasonable position. But there are alternatives to simply zapping the bad tweet and scrubbing the record.”

His recommendations include using versioning tools to “keep a corrected edition of a story front and center while maintaining a trail of accountability.” A less-technical option is simply sending out tweets that begin “CORRECTION”. Or perhaps someday Twitter (or a third-party service) might implement a correction function.

Read Rosenberg’s full post.


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