Transparency on Twitter

We regret the error.
This blog focuses primarily on Twitter. But one of my bailiwicks from a past life is journalism. And while I’ve created blogs primarily devoted to the vagaries of reporting news to audiences who may—or may—not care, those have long since been put to bed. Every now and then, however, I’ll notice some news coverage which gets my dander up. This weekend’s reporting of the shooting in Tucson is the latest example.

On Sunday, I was watching “This Week” from ABC News. The episode included a piece from Pierre Thomas about the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. In an ten minute profile, one of the still images of Mr. Loughner included a caption with his name spelled incorrectly.

Not “Jarod Lee Loffner.”

Now, I understand reporting errors occur every day; this very post might even have one. But multi-million dollar news organizations should make very few of them, especially when they are devoting so many of their resources to following such a potential ratings bonanza. What’s more important to me, however, is what they do when they discover an error.

That’s why I found a discussion on a recent “On the Media” so interesting. The segment featured a conversation between co-host Bob Garfield and Craig Silverman of Regret the Error about how news organizations handle corrections, if at all. It was surprising to me how many media outlets devote so few resources to updates of erroneous stories.

“... at places like CNN and FOX News and other large broadcasters there was either very little or nothing at all when it came to error reporting mechanisms.”
Craig Silverman- “On the Media,” 24 December 2010

Coincidently, I noticed a conversation on Twitter about a very similar topic. Prompted after the Poynter Institute posted a story calling Twitter an “imperfect news channel,” the discussion (which is embedded below) included recommendations about how newsrooms could signify corrected and amended information in updates.

Correcting conversation. 
Later, ABC World News promoted a story from Monday‘s broadcast, but misspelled the name of Mr. Loughner. I sent a reply, they corrected the mistake in a new update, but made no mention that it was correcting an error. They also deleted the incorrect update. It was minor, but was it transparent?

If we are going to continue to trust news agencies online as much as we do in broadcasts, they are obliged to find a more open way to correct and notify audiences of previous mistakes. Until they do, they are missing an important part of the transparency good reporting, and journalism in general, requires.

With that off my chest, I’ll get back to building with the Twitter API, and tell you about it on the ‘morrow, on the Web.
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Author  Stephen R. Fox