When news broke about the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month, those on Twitter were some of the first to hear about death counts and momentum in the investigation. We all know Twitter is one of the best tools for engaging with a story, but as the news unfolded, so did the corrections. It’s a good time to reflect on some best practices for reporting on Twitter. As we come upon the one month anniversary mark for Sandy Hook and deal with new tragedies this week like the hostage situtation at a Los Angeles mall to a ferry accident in the East River, here are five things to keep in mind when big news breaks.
1. Facebook Is Not Your Friend
Most corrections resulted from faulty Facebook searches for the alleged shooter. Even as law enforcement insisted they had yet to confirm the identity of the shooter, news organizations like The Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed and even cable news organizations began posting pictures of Ryan Lanza. And they were all wrong.
Facebook has never been championed for its search capabilities. Despite the fact that Facebook’s speciality is connecting, it’s often easier to Google someone for their Facebook profile than it is to use the social network’s search bar. Even a simple search for your best friend’s rather particular name can turn up over three pages of results. You’re a reporter, not Sherlock Holmes. Use Facebook for clues, but don’t bet on the fact there is only one name per city when news breaks.
2. Read Your Retweets
We’ve written about the dangers of relying on retweets as a journalism strategy. But the fact that a lot of users are retweeting without clicking through doesn’t mean you should, too. News is breaking but take the time to read the articles before you click. Most times, the wrong information passes quicker than the correction. Retweet responsibly.