Scooping the Media
On Monday there were a couple of articles about how Twitter scooped the news media by almost half an hour with news of Whitney Houston’s death.
Does this really surprise anybody?
Those who Twitter (and I am one) don’t have to verify news before they release it. Someone with a large following could report a rumor and it could be read by hundreds of thousands before the news media has a chance to verify it.
As Winston Churchill said many years ago, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Now I’m not saying that any of these tweets were lies — in fact, they were true. I’m pointing out that stories hit social media without any corroboration or fact-checking. That’s why it’s pretty easy for folks to scoop the news media. I’m willing to bet that the media had the story at the same time, but when through the rigors of actually verifying it before reporting the singer’s death because they have a responsibility to do that.
It’s called trust. If any credible major news outlet reported every rumor that was tweeted, it wouldn’t take long for most people to dismiss that outlet’s news reports. They would probably also go bankrupt with all the lawsuits.
Of course the tabloids do this all the time. They turn rumors into “news” and then have to retract it (usually well after the damage is done and in a much less well-read medium than the one used to set the story on fire). They also have massive legal teams.
So what does that mean to everybody else?
Think about your personal brand before you spread a rumor. Will this hurt it or help it? Are you willing to trade your reputation as valuable source of information for a lot of retweets? Will all those new followers continue to follow you once the truth comes out? Or will they feel that your lack of fact checking also cost them some credibility?
It’s great to scoop the media. But be responsible. Don’t spread it until you (or somebody you trust) verifies it.