This post is not an anti-Twitter rant, instead it’s a cautionary tale. By now, we’ve all heard stories about newsrooms sending out inaccurate tweets and then paying the price for it. Take the case of WFTV in Orlando, for example, where back in April the station tweeted about the state’s first swine flu case with information that turned out to be wrong.
Now, according to the Florida News Center, we have a GM and news director at WPMI in Mobile, Ala. who have been suspended for a week without pay following an inadvertent tweet on the station’s electronic billboard, which features the anchor team and a Twitter feed from the station.
There may be more to this billboard story than we realize, but the incident reinforces a couple of important points:
1. News organizations are going to make mistakes when using new technologies (think gyro cams on news helicopters and some of the privacy issues raised with those).
2. Because the technology is new, those mistakes will be magnified by the critics and used by them as evidence that the journalists involved are being reckless.
Knowing this, newsrooms and individual journalists would be wise to go above and beyond their usual verification and pre-publication checks. Continuing to educate themselves on both the potential benefits and drawbacks of these new tools is important, too.