Archive for the ‘Digital first’ Category


The pros of verifying

Twitter has become important for disseminating information, but you need to make sure its accurate before publishing. (Photo: Pixabay)

Last Thursday, the UK held a general election which saw a hung parliament. It also saw negotiations begin on a minority government between Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives, and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

But as the news of the election results came down, so did a statistic on youth voter turnout – which indicated that 72 percent of voters between 18 and 24 voted.

There was widespread praise as the statistic was tweeted near and far, as the issue of young people participating in elections had been raised over the course of the campaign.

There was one problem though – it wasn’t proven to be true. As a result, it raised many questions by journalists and from other observers as to its origins, which began from a voting organization that supports the youth vote, and later tweeted by MPs, political advocates and others.

When all was said and done, it was a talking point on Twitter, and it got the attention of many news organizations, as attempts to verify the claim were made.

Twitter has its pros and cons when it comes to journalism, but one of the issues is that of the quality of information. The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it, but most of all, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

What happened on Twitter that election night serves as a reminder that verifying information is important, even more so in this digital age where anyone can publish anything, whether its true or not.

Here is a guide when it comes to publishing verified information, especially on Twitter.

Don’t run on first instinct: If you’re aware of reports of something, be it politics, business or otherwise, don’t assume its right. Just because Twitter and other platforms are new doesn’t mean the rules surrounding ethics change.

Be honest and forthright: Tell your audience you are trying to confirm the information. Then make inquiries and try to figure out what is going on. Being forthright allows you to be a more credible journalist to your followers and beyond.

Don’t be afraid to cite: Be specific about the reports – you can either quote the tweet or cite the user. Explain to audiences how you’ve spotted the claim and anything you’ve been able to find. Yet, don’t cite endlessly, cite when you feel it is warranted.

Once you’ve confirmed it, tweet it: You have sought the truth, and you now know it is true. Now report it.

Disseminating information on social media is a part of journalism today – ensuring its verified helps ethical journalism thrive on social media. Credibility on the platform is important more than ever, and if you take the time to ensure everything is accurate, people will come back to you for the truth.

When faced with dealing with information that may not be true, remember – it is better to be right than be first. You’ll be a better journalist as a result of it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social balance

Social media platforms are in a delicate balance when it comes to platforms and engaging users. (Photo: Visual Content/Flickr via Creative Commons)

In the world of social media, content is king, and for journalists, social media has allowed for new ways to not just inform audiences, but also to engage them – creating new dimensions in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Yet, while there are benefits for journalists and news organizations in this relationship with social media, there also are questions as to the right balance – informing users versus attracting them.

For social media platforms, it is the matter of designing the right platform to curate these stories, and the algorithm that distributes them to users. This includes the most notable, Facebook, who has rolled out updates on stories and photos in an attempt to compete with Snapchat, which has been a notable app because of its ability to engage younger audiences.

For news organizations, it is the matter of staying true to the goals at the core of journalism – informing, engaging and stimulating, while trying not to be too content heavy, leading to people unfollowing them on Twitter or unliking them on Facebook.

It all comes down to the question both social networks and news organizations are facing: “How much is too much?”

As the right way to handle this is debated and put forward, and strategies are tweaked, there must be the consideration of the people who will ultimately be at the receiving end of these strategies – the audience.

When writing about the changes for Facebook, Casey Newton, an editor for the technology news web site The Verge, included a section in his story on the social network’s introduction of Stories, and wider implications.

Among them is this:

“Where should you post your daily story now becomes a daily concern for a certain subset of youngish, social media-savvy people,” Newton wrote. “Facebook says stories belong everywhere that people are talking online, but what if the format is a fad? And what if forcing it on users across its entire family of app leads to a general fatigue with the idea? The company says each of its apps has a distinctive audience, and I believe it. But there’s also plenty of overlap. There’s a risk here that Facebook’s mania for stories will be interpreted as overkill by its users, and the feature will ultimately fade into the background. (This happened with live video!)”

In other words, on the whole, its the delicate balance that social platforms like Facebook have to play in order to attract users but also try not to put them off. Because of the importance of the content, be it a photo or video based story on Instagram, going live on Facebook, or creating a Moment on Twitter, social networks are trying to be distinct in how they can get the most audiences possible – for content can support a platform’s future.

A new platform or new feature brings the potential for more users on the social network, and the opportunity for news organizations to increase their audience on that particular platform. That opportunity also raises the question of prioritizing stories, and what platform gets to be the lucky recipient of the story.

But considerations must be made for why the story is there on that social network in the first place. Are you posting a story on Facebook because people really need to know about it, or are you putting up on Snapchat a customized dancing cat video merely designed to expand your reach and the number of eyeballs on the post?

It is important that audiences are informed and engaged by journalists about the world around them – it is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics’ steadfast value – seek truth and report it. It is also important that social media plays a role in informing and engaging audiences, as it is a reflection of the change in platforms where the news is curated and disseminated.

Yet, when all is said and done, both parties need to consider what is best for their audiences, instead of the opportunity to boost audience figures. After all, it isn’t about quantity, but quality, and that an accurate, fair and quality piece of work benefits everyone – instead of something rushed.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Perspective: It’s important

Students at USC’s Annenberg School have reinforced the importance of perspective and ideas in the digital age. (Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri/Wikimedia Commons)

Last month, Laura Davis of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism curated a series written by her students about how products affect trust with news organizations.

Journalism, in all its forms, finds itself in a quandary as the digital age. Yet, it goes beyond the consumption of it – but how trust can be maintained and ethics can be preserved. We are in the midst of a significant conversation that will ultimately build how we go about work in this industry – and no angle or factor is spared.

This conversation also evolves those who are looking to pursue work in this industry. Everyone who seeks to come into this industry does so for the same reasons – to inform, educate and stimulate the public. The ways that the news is disseminated will evolve, but the goal, as the former public editor of The New York Times (now Washington Post media columnist) Margaret Sullivan put it, remains the same – a reason to be optimistic:

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium. It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

If Davis, her colleagues at Annenberg and her students have done anything through this albeit brief project, it is the need for perspective. The ideas of those who will be the future of this industry are just as important as the ideas of those currently in it – for when all is said and done, these ideas can strengthen and bolster journalism, confirm its quintessential importance for our democracy, and give the reason for why our profession’s work is a necessity.

So thank you, Annenberg students, for sharing this insight. May you continue to do so, and may your teachers and professors encourage you to do so.

Along the way, may you encourage other journalism students to do just the same – for we’ll need your perspective, now, and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Querying fact checking

At NPR's headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

Geopolitics has been at the epicenter of the news the past few months, from the news of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union with a new Prime Minister, and the diplomatic conversations surrounding the conflict in Syria, to the closely watched campaigns for elections for president of the United States.

As the 8th of November nears, a subject that has been debated is that of fact-checking, and what role it should have in the context of modern political journalism. In the recent debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, NPR had a running transcript with annotations going, the checks being communicated on Twitter, Facebook, and the web site.

When all was said and done, NPR achieved its highest traffic day ever, and the transcript got 7.4 million page views.

Beth Donovan, the supervising senior editor for its Washington Desk, who has worked on previous election output, said the public broadcaster had been trying to perfect engaging audiences when it came to fact-checking.

“Fact checking has long been a priority for NPR,” Donovan said in an interview by email. “Even before this particular race shaped up, we had been trying new things in the fact check lane in hopes of connecting with our audience and helping them engage with political rhetoric through this prism.”

Donovan said audiences had valued a second screen accompaniment to live events, and this fact-checking feature was a way to hone NPR’s engagement strategy. She says similar plans will be in the works for the forthcoming debate this weekend and the final debate later this month.

“There was a transparency to our fact check, people could see us highlighting facts we were about to check (as well as a lot of typos in the first and even second draft of the transcription),” Donovan said. “The audience could see the statement in context, our journalism, and source links. And the page kept moving and changing right on your phone.”

While there was success for NPR in its engagement strategy, it came amid some concerns, before and after the debate was over. The fact-checking annotations commenced amid concerns of trust in the media, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

In addition, after the debate, concerns had been raised by the ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen, who, in addition to some listeners, said some questions were missed, despite the best efforts of reporters and editors in Washington. Donovan said her team did the best they could under the circumstances, even as concerns of bias were prevalent.

“We just do our best every day to cover the news and to report fairly and accurately,” Donovan said. “Fact checking is no different.”

Yet, Donovan notes, there is difficulty in accomplishing such a task.

“Even in a news room with as much policy depth as NPR’s, live fact checking is hard,” Donovan said. “The biggest challenges are often the littlest things.”

However, Donovan says, there is something that makes it all worthwhile — the drive and collaboration between its journalists.

“It can look easy or obvious the next day, but watching our annotated transcript come to life was inspiring,” Donovan said. “This is a remarkable newsroom. I always feel especially proud to be part of it on debate nights and in breaking news situations.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social audience

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Recently, Dr. Talia Stroud, the director of the Engaging News Project based at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote about a study looking at the role of gender and age in consuming news in the social media and mobile age.

In that post, examining the Mobile-First News report from the Miami based Knight Foundation and the ratings agency Nielsen, Stroud wrote about how women and younger audiences are more likely to engage with news on social media and mobile devices. Stroud added that she hoped this study would start a conversation within news organizations on how these audiences can be catered to, especially through social media.

Indeed, in this evolving age for journalism, there are opportunities for news organizations to make a difference, to enhance their journalism, to help audiences understand the world around them in new ways, especially when it comes to younger audiences.

Some organizations are already at the helm. In the UK, the BBC has a service called Newsbeat, telling the news from a younger audience standpoint, by offering explanation pieces on key events, especially during the UK’s most recent vote on its membership in the European Union.

It also provided unique analysis of the political fallout that followed, from the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party to the concerns surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Newsbeat airs two 15 minute editions, Monday to Friday, on the broadcaster’s pop music service Radio 1, and has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (search for bbc_newsbeat), as well as an app, accessible through its web site. Stories are also sometimes available as links from the main BBC News web site.

In the US, BuzzFeed has utilized video to encourage younger audiences to vote, recently uploading this video to its Facebook page featuring President Obama. BuzzFeed also produces news content on its web site as well as a News app.

Even though younger audiences are being exposed to media through multiple platforms and screens, there is potential for news organizations to make a difference, to help audiences understand issues in new ways. While the BBC and BuzzFeed are two notable examples of what is out there, there is much more that can be done to help younger audiences be informed news consumers.

Social media platforms and news organizations can work together to make that happen. Young people want to be informed, and in order for that to happen, more news organizations must look outside the box for that to happen, in spite of challenges that come.

For them, the ball is firmly in the news organizations’ court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Now streaming: The world

They have been common occurrences in our Facebook feeds over the last few weeks — a news organization, journalist or publisher on the social network sends a notification to its fans that its live doing an event or doing a Q&A on a subject.

Whether its The New York Times discussing the future of Apple amid the conclusion of the company’s 13 year growth streak or the BBC World Service interviewing a German historian about the country’s past, live-streaming has become a new way for news organizations to engage audiences in conversations, as well as inform them about particular events.

The adapting of live streaming in social strategies comes as video becomes an integral part of social engagement, either through videos curated through Snapchat’s Discover channels, segments posted on Twitter or even short clips on Facebook and Instagram. Video has become a core part of engaging audiences on social, no matter the event, and live streaming would become an essential component of it.

Indeed, for video, its not just limited to coverage of news events and Q&As. Recently, Twitter announced that it would live stream 10 NFL games over the course of the next season, a move that is likely going to indicate more Twitter based content and video from news organizations and reporters who cover sports, not just for the NFL, but for all sports, including the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

More people are seeing journalism through live streaming, especially on Facebook. (Photo: Pixabay)

More people are seeing journalism through live streaming, especially on Facebook. (Photo: Pixabay)

Additionally, more live streams are likely to come from news organizations, whether its leading up to the final primaries, conventions, and indeed, the general election in November in the US, or towards the forthcoming referendum in the UK on its membership in the European Union, and its geopolitical implications. Live streaming is at the core for the strategy of social platforms, long marketed as hubs for the events that shape the world in real time.

Video continues to be key in engagement on social platforms. As a result, live streaming will be at its core, and those notifications you see on Facebook, and those posts about live coverage on Twitter, won’t be going away anytime soon.

While this remains mutually beneficial for both news organizations and indeed social networks, there is still a significant responsibility for news organizations when it comes to this content. If the content you produce is fair, accurate, impartial, and transparent, it will resonate with your audiences.

As I wrote in the lead up to SPJ’s Ethics Week (held last week), the influence of social media is still felt in today’s journalism, and the rules of ethics still apply, even if its on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or a different social platform.

After all, the content you produce for these platforms is not just to help engagement and the social strategy, but to do what all journalism does irrespective of platform — inform, educate and enlighten

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Point Taken and the new social media conversation

Carlos Watson moderates a debate on the American Dream from Point Taken, airing on PBS. (Photo: Meredith Nierman/WGBH)

Carlos Watson moderates a debate on the American Dream from Point Taken, airing on PBS. (Photo: Meredith Nierman/WGBH)

Social media has allowed us to do many things in journalism, from help tell a story and inform new audiences, to curate a conversation on various subjects. For WGBH, they have shown social media can do that and then some through the new program Point Taken.

Point Taken, a late-night, weekly debate on a current affairs topic, presented by Carlos Watson, premiered last night on PBS and is produced by the Boston based public media station. The subject was the future of the American Dream, and at the core of the conversation was social media, utilizing the hashtag #PointTakenPBS.

Yet, how social media was portrayed was different compared to most current affairs programs on television that discusses topical subjects. Tweets had appeared on screen, but also data of interaction was also present, indicating how many users were tweeting with the subject at that given time. It gave a visual complement to the discussion, allowing audiences to see a full lens of the conversation.

There was also the ability to vote on whether the American Dream was dead or alive, data which was shown on Twitter, as well as the ability to use polls to gain more insight into the thoughts of viewers.

However, the prevalence of social is not exclusive to a half hour broadcast. Other platforms had been used, including Facebook for engagement and interaction, as well as Snapchat, where through a filter audience members could record their thoughts on the subject being debated. Point Taken having a platform on Snapchat is part of a number of WGBH produced programs signing on to the platform, notably the current affairs documentary program Frontline and the science documentary program Nova.

In addition, the first episode is available to watch again (or to view if you missed last night’s airing) on Facebook, through PBS’ fan page.

The subjects will change from week to week, but one thing is for certain. WGBH and Point Taken have revolutionized how social media is used to curate a conversation, and has allowed new ways for public media as a whole to engage with younger audiences. It is a strategy that is inspired, and can go a long way in engaging new audiences and retaining current ones.

Tuesday was a win-win scenario for WGBH and for this industry, allowing not just for a discussion on the future of the American Dream, but also how social media can be used to enhance and innovate journalism, making it better for those curating the content, and, most importantly, those consuming it.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The importance of notifications

As Twitter celebrates its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism has become significant. As part of a series leading up and celebrating its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, Alyssa Bloechl, of the Door County Advocate in Wisconsin, considers notifications on Twitter and the culture of reporting on the platform.

Twitter, which celebrated its tenth birthday March 21, has allowed journalists to engage with audiences in new ways. (Photo via Anthony Quintano/Flickr under CC)

There are an exponential amount of ways a journalist can use Twitter in their work, be it learning about breaking news, connecting with sources or live-tweeting an event. However, a recent exchange with someone in my community got me to thinking about how the Twitter accounts of journalists can be tools for readers.

Obviously, Twitter is a way to share breaking news that readers look to retweet, but I think more day-to-day tweets from journalists sharing their finished stories or reporting from an important meeting are not necessarily getting the attention they deserve.

The exchange, concerning a coming major detour routing through the downtown business district, went as follows:

Me: “Hi, how are you? Do you have a few minutes?”

Source: “Yeah, I’m free. You want to talk about the detour?

Me: “Um, yes. How did you know that’s why I was calling?”

Source: “I saw your tweet and figured out why you’d be calling. I get notifications for all of your tweets.”

I was stunned. She has notifications for me, a person with under 600 followers and an unverified account.

As a tweeter for some time, I began reflecting on this. I was mostly honored to learn she sees ALL of my tweets, but then nervous she might turn them off when she realized I don’t tweet just stuff I’m working on. (I’ve recently gotten into the fun habit of tweeting with GIFs.)

The Twitter snob in me thought, what worth would all of my tweets have for her? I only turn on the notifications on an account when I know a local journalist or news source is covering a breaking event and I need/want to keep up on what they are saying. Once the event is over, I turn them off.

Alyssa Bloechl of The Door County Advocate in Wisconsin says notifications can help engagement on Twitter, especially for community reporters. (Photo via LinkedIn)

After some thought, I tried to put myself in my source’s shoes. She is the director of a local tourist organization and a well-known community member. If I were in her position, it would be to my benefit to keep up on the day-to-day tweets of a journalist, as they would typically tweet about local news and ongoing stories, which would help me in my work.

She mentioned she appreciates all of my tweets when reporting at city meetings and she even mentioned a string of live tweets I had put together while in the courtroom a few days before.

I have concluded that it is entirely possible that people other people may use Twitter notifications to source local journalists. As a result, I took to Twitter!

Through a poll, I encouraged followers to tell me if they 1) Use notifications, 2) Do not use notifications or 3) Do not know what notifications are. I referenced this as a way they may gather the news on the social network.

As a low-profile account, I got a grand total of 11 responses. 45 percent of those polled indicated they do not use notifications, 36 percent do use them and 19 percent did not know what they were.

It’s not much to work with in terms of the millions that use Twitter, but I believe that margin between using notifications and not can be closed with the right marketing. If journalists took the opportunity to encourage readers and followers to turn on notifications for their tweets, I think communities will have opportunity to be more informed.

That information can empower further sharing and possible social action based on what the journalist is tweeting about while on the job.

I also think if journalists are also thinking about people actually reading all of their tweets and the writer is not just sending characters off into a mass of other tweets, we may become more thoughtful and responsible when tweeting for our audience.

We local journalists can make a difference, encourage readership and tweet responsibly and ethically about their community’s happenings. I know I’ll be working on getting more people to turn on notifications.

Alyssa Bloechl, an SPJ member, is a reporter with the Door County Advocate in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. You can interact with Bloechl on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Tweet responsibly: Consider the ethics code

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ President-Elect Lynn Walsh shares tips when it comes to sharing and curating a story. 

As it prepares 10, Twitter is regarded essential for journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

As it prepares 10, Twitter is regarded essential for journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

By now, I think it’s fair to say most people are on board and understand the important role social media can play in journalism. From helping journalists obtain information and connect with sources to providing an online space to share information quickly, around the world, social media, especially Twitter, is a journalists friend.

As we have learned, a tweet can be as powerful as a headline story in a major newspaper. Some may argue Twitter users are also more forgiving of mistakes or errors, but that doesn’t mean we, as journalists or bloggers, should be less diligent about what we are sharing on the social media site.

RTing:
Attribute. If you are sharing someone else’s story, give them credit. This goes for publication and/or individual journalists. Also, attribute to and mention people involved in the story directly, including their usernames in the Tweet. In breaking news, attribute quotes and information whenever possible.

Confirm. This is especially important in breaking news situations. Just because there are 100-plus tweets saying one thing, if you or your news agency cannot confirm, I would wait to RT. Or make sure you are attributing or making it clear where the information is coming from. You could also tweet it, but say you are working to confirm.

SPJ president-elect Lynn Walsh says a tweet is powerful in the digital age, and standards should apply with anything you write. (Photo via Twitter)

SPJ president-elect Lynn Walsh says a tweet is powerful in the digital age, and standards should apply with anything you write. (Photo via Twitter)

Share developments. If you say you are working to confirm, be sure to follow-up with your followers with new developments. This is extremely important when it comes to breaking news or when you are live tweeting. For daily stories, if there are big developments, be sure to share those, even if you are no longer covering the story for your news organization.

Be fair. Are you sharing both sides of the story? Are you only RTing certain individuals? Could there be others, with different opinions you should also be sharing? Fairness is one goal, you as a journalist, should aim for. Look for all side of the story on Twitter and the people representing them just like you would any other story.

Corrections:
Make them. While it is never fun to be incorrect, the best thing to do is correct the information when you are. It can be hard but it’s important. Even if it is a misspelling, send out a follow-up Tweet with the correction.

Be timely. As soon as you realize something was incorrect, fix it and fix it on every platform. Not just in the web script or TV script, on Twitter and social media too. We are quick to share news, let’s be quick to correct anything we got wrong.

Clarify. Maybe you weren’t incorrect but for some reason the tweet is confusing your followers. Be sure to respond and clarify the information. You can do this by responding directly to people or sending out new Tweets explaining or clarifying.

Mention. If there was something I corrected and you named people directly, be sure to include them in the correction so their followers can see it as well.

Even though the posts are short, they can be powerful. Use the same standards you would with anything you write and as you prepare your next 140 character post, don’t forget about the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Share responsibly my friends.

Lynn Walsh is President-Elect of the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of the SPJ Ethics and FOI committees. Outside of SPJ, she leads the Investigations team at KNSD, the NBC owned station in San Diego. You can connect with Walsh on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Whatever the beat, the facts are always king

The trading rumor surrounding New York Mets player Wilmer Flores reminds us of why the facts are crucial. (Photo: Deansfa/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The trading rumor surrounding New York Mets player Wilmer Flores reminds us of why the facts are crucial. (Photo: Deansfa/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

It has long been established that social media has changed how we think about engaging with our audiences, from developing stories to informing them of what is going on as it happens. Yet, there is one particular question that arises when it comes to informing – to be first, or not to be first?

Media organizations and journalists are trying to be the first with exclusive news, and sports journalists in New York thought they had a big exclusive last week as the baseball trade deadline came and went. The New York Mets were said to be trading two players to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Gomez, and the other player subject to trading was Wilmer Flores.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post broke the story before 9pm ET, as the Mets were taking on the San Diego Padres, according to a report on the subject from the Columbia Journalism Review. The news got through Twitter and all the regular places, and even to Flores, who cried on the field, distraught, embarrassed and concerned. The Mets had been the only team Flores had played for since his promotion to the major leagues, so one can understand the personal factors in the attachment.

However, the facts weren’t all aligned, and said trade would not proceed. Flores would stay with the Mets, overcoming the issue to beat the Washington Nationals that Friday, and Gomez would go to the Houston Astros. Readers and viewers alike had been misled, merely because of the rush to be first, in order to beat the competition.

The question of to be first or not be first does not apply exclusively to the world of sports. It applies to all beats, be it politics, business or entertainment. The audience want the truth – impartial, reliable information. It’s what keeps your relationship with your audience together. It’s what is expected from every journalist. It’s part of the job. If it’s a rumor, you say it’s a rumor, then work the phones, send that email, try to get to the bottom of it. Running with it merely as stated fact does no one any good.

To quote C.P. Scott, an editor of The Guardian newspaper in Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries, comment is free, but facts are sacred, and in an age where rumors and speculation can run rampant on social media, the facts are crucial.

It therefore is better to be right the first time, and to tweet or post on to social media when you have everything verified. Not only is that what audiences want, they’ll be sure to come back to you for information on that beat, because you can be trusted.

And the ability to be trusted is, without a doubt, a home run.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger to Net Worked and SPJ’s community coordinator. He is also Co-Student Life editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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