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Archive for January 21st, 2013

Journalists should treat information we gather on social media the same way we treat information gathered any other way, or an assurance from Mom that she loves you: Check it out.

My #twutorial series hasn’t been updated since late October, but I always planned to do a post on verifying information gathered in social media. Given the errors some journalists made in reporting on the Sandy Hook massacre and in the original reporting on Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend, this feels like a good time to stress accuracy and verification.

The most simple and important advice I can give is that Twitter is like any other information source — documents, anonymous tips, news releases, press conferences, interviews, databases — it can provide valuable information or deliberate lies or innocent errors. Your job is to verify the information that looks useful. As with all the other information you gather, you can verify lots of different ways, and no single technique works for everything.

Some of the tips I provide here will be specific to Twitter or to social media generally. Some will be general verification tips applied to Twitter. And I’m sure I won’t cover all the ways you could verify information from tweets. As with all reporting, resourcefulness is essential. Develop some verification techniques of your own (and please remember to share them in the comments here). (more…)

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Narrative journalism will survive the Manti Te’o hoax. In fact, the sports stories that spouted and perpetuated the lies of the hoax were not narrative journalism. They were shallow journalism.

Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden imagines that the backlash against sportswriters who failed to check out things they were told about Te’o’s fake girlfriend may “lead to fewer narrative stories, period, and that would not be such a great thing.”

The notion that coverage of the fake girlfriend’s death was narrative journalism is as bogus as her car crash, her leukemia, her Stanford enrollment or her death.

Here are a couple of key passages from Layden’s lament (Layden responded to my post on Twitter; I have embedded our Twitter exchange later in this post): (more…)

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