June 23rd, 2009
I was just reading this post by Julie Posetti over at PBS’ Mediashift blog, and this section jumped out at me:
When I raised concerns this week about the practice of tweeters who openly identify as professional journalists re-tweeting without verification, in the context of the indiscriminate dissemination of tweets claiming to emanate from Iran, I found myself engaged in a lively discussion on Twitter. I asserted that when Patrick LaForge, an editor at the New York Times, re-tweeted (without acknowledgement of verification or absence thereof) a list of Iranian tweeters sourced from expert blogger Dave Winer (who had, in turn, passed on the list without verifying its contents) it amounted to an approval of that list, LaForge disagreed. NYU’s Jay Rosen then reminded me not to expect open systems like Twitter to behave in the same manner expected of editorial systems.
But while I agree with Rosen, my concern wasn’t directed at the unmediated Twittersphere. Rather it was directed at the way journalists approach this flood of information.
I learned this lesson firsthand from James Janega, one of my reporters when I was over at Tribune Interactive. Last year, when he was down in New Orleans covering Hurricane Gustav on James quickly defused a rumor that was swirling around about residents without identification not being allowed to evacuate the city. Since Gustav was the first large hurricane to strike New Orleans since Katrina, this had the potential to be an incendiary story.
Except it wasn’t true.
James did what any reporter would do: He picked up the phone. But we found out about the rumor through our social media contacts. (Here’s a great interview with James on JD Lasica’s blog, SocialMedia.biz)
So here’s a quick poll for you: Do you think a re-tweet equals an endorsement? Why? What’s your take?
Would love to post some answers! (Click here to take the survey.)