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Posts Tagged ‘Corrections’
03 Aug

What’s your role in correcting a retweeted hoax?

It happens to all of us, and last week it happened to me.

I got punked… by a hoax.

That study that claimed IE6 users have a lower IQ, as much as we may still feel like it’s true, was a fake.

I’ve been punked by hoaxes in the past, I’m sure, but the difference with this one is that I retweeted it and helped spread the misinformation. And, in turn, my tweet was retweeted a half dozen times.

Now, I didn’t know it was a hoax at the time. I have to admit, though, I immediately bought into it. Old browsers are hated by Web Developers. But when I shared it I was thinking it was “proof” rather than trying to willing lie to people.

In other words, I don’t think I committed a journalistic sin because I didn’t know it was fake at the time. Retweeting a rumor and treating it as fact, that’s a journalism sin… this was more a case of journalistic laziness, because in my heart “I knew it to be true.”

Typically, I read the links before I share them with others – not endorsements, per say, but informed sharing. In this case, I didn’t even question it and re-shared. (NOTE: I still believe there is something wrong with you if you are using IE6.)

Tim Carmody, who wrote the piece exposing the hoax for Wired, said it perfectly:


.@ One thing I talk about in the article is how these hoaxes 1) give us ammo in an argument & 2) confirm what we already think.
@tcarmody
Tim Carmody

While I didn’t commit a journalism sin, I did, knowing or not, participate in spreading this hoax. So, what is my responsibility now?

I went straight to the correction expert and asked Craig Silverman, of Regret the Error, for advice. His response:


@ @ You should message anyone who RT’d your incorrect RT to let them know it was a hoax. And ask them to spread word.
@CraigSilverman
Craig Silverman

My response:


@ Will do! And I’ll say two ‘Our Fathers’ … that’s the Catholic side of me. I can’t help it. // @
@webjournalist
Robert Hernandez

While not a sin, I still felt dirty. So much so, that I also posted a correction on Google+ and wrote this piece.

I’m happy to report, moments after I asked those who retweeted me to spread the corrected info, nearly all did.

What are your thoughts? How would you have corrected this “error?” Do you consider it an error?

12 Jan

Errors happen – it’s what’s next that matters

NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201101/1928/

On Friday, December 13, 2002, I killed a man… a teenager really… but only for 15 minutes.

I was a few months into my new job at The Seattle Times where I was running the homepage. The news broke that a 17-year-old teen was shot in the head by a Seattle police officer during an attempted robbery and the brief was sent my way to post.

For some reason, I assumed a gunshot to the head was fatal and wrote the headline stating that the teen was killed.

After getting rightfully chewed out by the reporter, I learned that you can survive that injury.

More than eight years later, after hearing the news coverage and premature reports of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ death, I can’t help but be reminded of my error and the lessons I’ve learned.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard people say that the Web – and now the real-time Web with social media – is a liability. A “tangled Web” of ethical problems.

Let’s just get this out-of-the-way: Errors happen in journalism all the time and, for the most part, by accident.

It doesn’t matter what the medium is – pixels or paper, newswires or tweets – facts can be misled, misreported or misunderstood. Errors happened before the Internet. Errors happen in newspaper, radio and TV journalism.

The bottom line is that errors happen.

What matters, in my opinion, is what you do after they happen.

After profusely apologizing, I fixed the headline and immediately wrote up a correction. It may have only been 15 minutes and perhaps only a handful of readers may have seen it, but it didn’t matter. I made the mistake.

You know that debate about who is a journalist and who isn’t? It’s all pointless really. When it comes down to it, a journalist, in its true essence, is someone who has credibility in delivering accurate information. It’s the person you can trust because they have earned your trust through accuracy.

Credibility is such a fragile thing. Takes years to build, but just moments to lose.

But in a craft where facts are moving quickly and readers want information in real-time, it’s not the multimedia or tech that counts… it’s your credibility.

I made an error that dinged The Times’, the reporter’s and my own credibility. Immediately posting that correction was a small, simple act of transparency to own up to it.

If you think about it, journalism is based on such a fragile thing like credibility. Trust. Faith.

The reporter, covering a news event, has to find the right sources and trust – yet verify – the information they are collecting. The reporter’s editor needs to trust that the reporter is not making this stuff up or stealing it from a competitor. The process goes from stage to stage until it gets to a reader/viewer/listener/user who then has to trust whether or not the piece is accurate.

Trust but verify. Consider the source. If your mom says she loves you, check it out.

All that before you hit publish to print or tweet your piece. All that as you consume a piece of news.

Like more and more people, I experienced the Giffords news coverage through a variety of ways that included radio, web, TV and social streams. I heard the incorrect reports about her death and the reactions that followed. I also heard the incorrect reports about her speedy recovery and those reactions.

I highly recommend reading Regret the Error‘s piece that breaks down how the error spread and Lost Remote‘s on whether or not incorrect tweets should be deleted.

Make sure you read the response by NPR Senior Strategist Andy Carvin, who talks about his role in tweeting the incorrect reports.

While mistakes were made in the coverage, the discussions afterward have been productive and insightful.

The errors happened. But what also mattered was what happened afterwards.

Categories: Journalism, OJR, Real-Time Web Tags:
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