Whether Twitter, Blogs Or Mainstream Media... Breaking News Can Get Facts Wrong

from the it's-what-happens-in-the-heat-of-the-moment dept

There was a silly debate soon after the awful tragedy of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month, where people started questioning whether or not Twitter was a legitimate news source. There were many reports from people on the scene via Twitter, and it was a fascinating (if somewhat depressing) "real-time" way of keeping up on some of what was happening. But some criticized the reliance on Twitter-as-journalism by complaining that it wasn't journalism because Twitter reports got facts wrong. That sounds good, but if that's the actual standard, then, well, pretty much nothing is journalism. As Slate is reporting, early reports from the mainstream press seemed to get much of the story wrong as well.

In the heat of an ongoing crisis, it's no surprise that details and facts are somewhat cloudy, and sources aren't (and often can't be) checked, but in the rush to get the news out, information, whether or not it's accurate, is going to get reported anyway. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- so long as it's clear that the information hasn't yet been confirmed. It's better to get the information out there. However, as the Slate report notes, what newspapers could do, is do a much better job cleaning up after the fact -- as we suggested in our story last week about a newspaper's incorrect report that quickly spread around the internet. Rather than put up a correction, the newspaper simply deleted the wrong article and pretended it never happened.

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  • identicon
    Ima Fish, 10 Dec 2008 @ 4:37am

    First, Twitter is not a news source. It's a communication service. Saying "Twitter is a news source" is about as asinine as saying "The telephone is a news source."

    Second, any sources of news on Twitter come from Twitter users.

    Third, because Twitter users are people who make empirical errors in judgment, and sometimes outright lie, they will be an occasional source of inaccurate facts.

    Fourth, because it is Twitter users who are the source of any news on Twitter, it is simply asinine to say that Twitter is not a trustworthy news source. Once again, it would be like saying, "You cant trust what you hear on the telephone." What the frick does that even mean?!

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  • identicon
    Roger, 10 Dec 2008 @ 4:45am

    The meaning of truth

    Ah, that elusive concept, truth.

    Sure there is the concept of true and false. But we all know that one person's truth can be another's lie.

    As philosophers would have it, history is written by the victorious.

    And as for Twitter, the truth of a news story is what consensus believes it to be. So if enough Twitterers say something is "true" it becomes so, even if that assertion does not conform with independently verifiable fact.

    As @Ima Fish rightly points out, Twitter is a tool, a conveyance for getting information (true or false) from point A to point B. It does not act as the arbiter of truth or otherwise, except perhaps by consensus.

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  • identicon
    The Arbiter, 10 Dec 2008 @ 5:25am

    And yet...

    Isn't a news source simply what one person says based on data they've collected? It doesn't matter how much data. I've seen plenty of TV and news reports that were completely off base, and you could tell that they didn't have much time put to them.

    With the abilities people have today, everyone can be a reporter, because everyone can reach out to the global populace and say 'Hey, this is what's going on.' Whether their 'reports' are true or false, it doesn't matter. That would simply be the context between a good reporter or a bad reporter.

    Although, even if everyone can be a reporter, it doesn't mean that everybody should be recognized as a reporter. But that's a whole different topic for a different time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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