There is immense pressure on Journalists these days to be able to do it all. Not only are they expected to competently write dense, feature articles, it is expected that they film and edit their own content and now- confidently handle the many new social media platforms that are thrust upon them (and us!) almost daily.
As to the notion of scoops and breaking news, a lot of tips or leads these days are from the web or what’s “trending” in social networks like Twitter. (Alejandro, 2010)
News these days is now being broken on social media, with tips and scoops coming from platforms such as Twitter. Gone are the days of journalists having the time to form a full story. We as an audience are determining how and when we get our news and because of this journalists are having to pick up the pace. The risk of waiting means that journalists may be out-scooped by competitors or, even worse- a citizen journalist!
— Jess King (@JessKingDigital) July 26, 2016
Check out a podcast I recorded of examples of how Twitter has been used to break major news stories from around the world.
What’s the problem with social media as a breaking news form?
The concern is, if anyone can break the news on social media- who are we to believe?
This new style of ‘citizen journalism’ can be a double edged sword at times and one of the clearest recent examples of this occurred on the site Reddit, as the search for the Boston Bombing suspect was taking place. Because of unchecked facts, a manhunt for the wrong man – who eventually wound up being found dead from an apparent suicide – began. (DeMers, 2013)
How can Journalists avoid making this mistake?
Verify, verify, verify!
Aside from using reverse image searches. Steve Buttry (2013) wrote a comprehensive blog post on the ways in which Journalists can verify information from social media. He suggests the following:
- Check the time of the tweet.
- Check for photos that help validate the story.
- Check the location of the user.
- Check previous tweets to fill in the gaps in a story.
- Attempt to connect with the user (phone, email) to validate information.
This list is by no means exhaustive, so check out the link for helpful tips from Buttry.
It is a journalist’s role to ensure that any information is fact-checked and verified before release. But it’s clear that this does not always happen .