Several years ago, a Richmond media outlet was quoting a Twitter handle as the official handle for a well-known local company. Unfortunately, the handle was not being used by the company. This created a challenging situation as we had to work with the client's lawyers to take control of the Twitter handle and clarify details with the reporters.
Ensuring that people are who they say they are online is critical, especially when you're in the business of reporting the news.
Last week, I shared an update of how the AP recently quoted a prominent cardiologist via Twitter reporteldywithout calling or contacting the source to verify.
To better understand this issue in the Richmond area, I reached out to a few journalists in the Richmond area including:
-Louis Llovio, the retail reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch
-Scott Wise, director of interactive media for WTVR-TV(CBS 6 News)
-Pat Kane, a journalist with the Progress-Indexin Petersburg, Va.
Louis Llovio stated, "I try not to ever quote from a Twitter feed. There’s too much bad information. When I do see something of interest on Twitter – or Facebook or anywhere else – I independently verify it before I write the story.
"I try not to ever quote from a Twitter feed."
One of the main reasons for that is that our threshold is higher. Someone that blogs or Tweets can post anything they want, but we have a journalistic responsibility to our readers to nail down a story before we print it online or in the paper."
WTVR-TV(CBS 6 News)
Scott Wise said via Twitter, "@jonathan_rhudy - depends on situation. generally tho tweets have become a primary source of info - like phone call, email or press release. like i said, case by case, but generally i'll report as fact a tweet from police, fire, gov't official."
" ... generally i'll report as fact a tweet from police, fire, gov't official"
Scott Wise (via Twitter)
WTVR-TV (CBS 6 News)
Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.)
Patrick Kane shared, "I will typically only directly cite a trusted government source unless we have asked normal folks for their input on something. For instance, the chief of Colonial Heights Fire and EMS started using Twitter, and sending photos out, during Hurricane Irene. That gave me a very full view of the damage in the city for breaking news and fairly specific addresses when searching for affected folks for the day-after story, too. I'll also cite Virginia 411 or something like that. I also dug up a few congratulatory Tweets for election night stories last fall.
"We have also taken Twitter tips and turned them into full-length scoops."
Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.)
We have also taken Twitter tips and turned them into full-length scoops. For instance, a local government Tweeted the sale of an important local property, and one of our reporters broke a story of regional interest when he discovered the buyer's identity. We have also gotten scooped when nobody is paying attention. I was off the day Prince George County let the cat of the bag (there is speculation it was accidental) about President Barack Obama's visit to the Rolls-Royce plant in the county."
First-line sources of information
When it comes to breaking news, Twitter and Facebook have become first-line sources of information. Consider the Twitterquake that happened in August 2011 after the Mineral quake.
As internal and external communicators, we need to evolve our thinking and approaches — just like Llovio, Wise and Kane — to fully embrace social media and its tremendous potential. Whether Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, we need to serve up timely, relevant and engaging content while keeping an eye on the fundamentals of solid journalism.