The Media Needs To Stop Guessing And Set Standards For Live-Tweeting ‘Breaking’ News

Yesterday, in the midst of a tense police shootout with alleged killer and ex-cop, Christopher Dorner, law enforcement asked the media to stop tweeting about the event.

Crazy, right? Even crazier? Many did.

Crazier than THAT? News organizations proceeded to live-tweet so many ‘breaking’ inaccuracies, it became a running joke on Twitter.

The reaction on Twitter is continuing, ranging from those who support Dorner’s actions to those celebrating his death . . .

But one theme where both sides seem to agree is on the attempted (and partially successful) media blackout that took place during the standoff.

And there is also widespread disgust around the shoddy reporting that took place as media teams raced to be first. So the stuff that WAS finally reported was largely inaccurate.

And attempts to retract a tweet are pretty pointless. Once it’s out there and endlessly retweeted (as ALWAYS happens during live-tweeted happenings, particularly ones involving death and destruction), there’s no way to go back to every person that tweet has touched and give them the correct info.

So what standard should the media set when reporting breaking stories? Here’s a start (feel free to add to it):

1.) When asked to stop reporting on something by law enforcement – don’t.

2.) Stop “breaking” news you haven’t confirmed, it’s irresponsible and will inevitably cause real damage (if it hasn’t already). And FYI – breaking news that’s isn’t accurate is NOT something you should be proud of. We’ll eventually ignore you and pay attention to competitors who consistently get the story right.

3.) Don’t retweet with abandon. Regardless of any disclaimers you may have on your Twitter profile stating otherwise, your retweets DO imply endorsement – particularly when you’re reporting ‘breaking’ news. If you don’t like this, preface each RT you’re unsure about with “First b4 truth!” or something to give the reader pause.

How do you feel about this whole situation? Hit the comments and let us know!

(Fortune telling image from Shutterstock) 

@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.
Publish date: February 13, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT