How much should information and sources from Twitter be used to tell news?

21 Mar

In a comparison of a breaking news story written by BBC v. the same story covered by RTE News, it’s clear that BBC relied on Twitter information much more heavily than did RTE News. The result is two stories with different information.

RTE News mainly used the police as a source, and while BBC had multiple sources, none of them seemed to be experts. The information came in from “reports” and witnesses. It is important to have points of view from people who saw an incident, but reporting on a crisis soley through those accounts rather than police reports is an issue.

BBC’s method of creating a story relates back to an earlier post I wrote about an eagle that snatched a dog. The dog snatching story had only one source, and he was a witness, not someone directly invovled.

So while it does seem important to use Twitter to learn about a breaking news story and even to find witness accounts to add to the story, I think the BBC story puts itself into a little trouble by not relying on police reports or named sources.

Another option is to perhaps tell the audience that the story is based off witness accounts, and may or may not be true, but this is the information that’s breaking. And also say that once verifyable information is found, it will be published to correct any errors made in the initial reportings.

By doing that, the organization is getting news out, and it’s somewhat factual if it’s coming from witnesses, but it’s clear that the information isn’t coming from police reports or other expert or offical sources.

Also, even though the information in the two stories does differ, I don’t think it’s fair to compare one of the stories to a fabricated story like “Jimmy’s World.” Both stories did use real sources, the information gathered just conflicts.

Twitter can be an important tool for journalists looking for news or sources, but the old tried-and-true methods can’t be discarded. Police reports, press releases and named civilians still add necessary verification to a story.

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One Response to “How much should information and sources from Twitter be used to tell news?”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers March 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    Good.

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