The debate on a Twitter edit tool

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Twitter may be releasing an edit tool – but the question is when? Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It has long been known that Twitter has become an essential social media platform for journalists, either through editorial or career purposes. Yet, there had been recent speculation on if the social network would introduce an edit tool to allow users to edit their tweets.

The most recent speculation came just before last Christmas. This report from The Next Web indicated that users would see an edit feature for a brief period, and would therefore allow these changes to be made. Facebook has a similar editing tool in place where users can edit posts once they are live.

It has been a tool that journalists have been wanting, prompting a discussion on the subject during the #wjchat Twitter chat, held Wednesday evenings at 8 ET/5 PT.

Sara Catania, the vice president for digital at NBC4 Southern California in Los Angeles, an NBC owned station, in a telephone interview for this blog, said it was long overdue, adding there was much excitement when Facebook introduced their tool.

I don’t think you’d find a journalist saying that an editing tool is a bad idea,” Catania said. “There was much celebration when Facebook introduced their tool. We wanted the flexibility to make corrections and add content to a post. Once Facebook enabled that, it created a greater degree of flexibility for us.”

Catania says if a feature is implemented, it should allow the user to look at the edit history, similar to what Facebook does, to show the audience what changes were made,

Those posts are flagged as edited and they can look at the edit trail,” Catania said. “That would be important in a Twitter editing tool. Without that capability, an editing tool would not be as beneficial to news organizations as we would like.”

A spokesperson for Twitter did not respond to a request via email seeking comment for this post.

Catania says overall, an editing tool would be appreciated in the long term by news organizations, especially considering the algorithm Twitter uses, where an incorrect tweet could be retweeted (similar to incidents with the Associated Press on coverage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17), and a revised tweet could gain less traction as they travel separately.

Accuracy is an expectation,” Catania said. “Twitter challenges and makes it harder to fulfill and carry through that expectation. Having that tool would help that.”

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman or email spjdigital@gmail.com.

Author’s note: This post was updated on August 11 to reflect a correction – KNBC, known as NBC4 Southern California, is an owned and operated station of NBC, and not an affiliate as previously indicated. We apologize for the mistake.

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