Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Notes on the news, Twitter and public hunger for accuracy

There was a lot of bad.

The bombings — tragic.
A city gripped by fearful uncertainty — terrible.
News media spewing inaccurate information — beyond disappointing.

Much has already been said about the journalism mistakes: the impact on the industry, the misuse of social media and what to consider the next time big news breaks.

Among those valuable takeaways, it’s important to highlight news consumers’ reactions to media blunders.

More than ever, they’re not having it.

That’s my unscientific observation. In my year with SPJ, I’ve monitored the social media reactions to the SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., damage caused by superstorm Sandy, the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and now the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt that followed. (There was the U.S. Presidential election, but that went smoothly. Did I miss anything? Probably.)

As big breaking-news events occurred, news consumers became increasingly intolerant of inaccurate reporting. Via Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, they ask for verification and urge news deliverers to exercise patience and ethical judgements.

Setting aside the inaccuracies churned out on those same platforms, it’s wonderful to see a hunger for quality journalism. Plenty of journalists got it right, but the ones that didn’t must take note of their audiences’ reactions. People want — they demand — informative, accurate reports.

Give the people what they want.


FYI, the SPJ Code of Ethics is a great reference »

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter,@cdigang.

Clever responses to my communications blunder

I send a lot of emails — THOUSANDS of emails — for SPJ. Last Thursday morning, I sent one to every member of the organization. After pressing send, I turned to my to-do list and planned the rest of my workday.

Then I saw this on Twitter:

the start of a long day

You're one of nearly 8,000, in fact.


Right you are, Carl. I went into the contact list and saw that each email address lined up with an unrelated name. I sent 7,331 incorrectly addressed emails.

All I could do was correct the mistake and let it serve as a reminder to triple check everything I send out — the revered double-check had failed me this time.

I expected to lose part of my day to addressing the problem. I did. But I didn’t expect to spend much of the afternoon laughing.

Thank you, journalists, for your persistent sense of humor.

In exchange for your patience and wit, I give you:

The Top 5 Responses to My Stupid Mistake (and the subsequent correction email)

5. “I liked being ‘Dave’ for a day.” — Peggy

4. “I was all set to climb up on you with both feet about the ‘Donald’ thing. Trump, maybe or Donald Duck, even … then you corrected your mistake.” — Janet

3. “I considered making a smart aleck reply, but figured it would have to take its place in a long line.”

2. “I’ve been called a lot of things worse than ‘Jennifer’ in my years as a community newspaper editor.” — Gary
(Three others also said they have been called worse. Journalism!)

And the winner, by far:

1. “Thanks for the invitation, but my name isn’t ‘Mary.’ : -)”
[I replied to this man —Mark — with an apology]
“No big deal, Christine. I guess I’m still a little sensitive about the fact that, back in ancient times, my local newspaper used to publish the list of school classes for fall, and they almost always ID’d me as ‘Mary.’ Humiliating experience for a 6-year old boy.”
[Additional apology sent]
“Thank you. Gotta run. Appointment with my therapist.”

And that, I believe, is called a Silver Lining.

But really, I’m lucky to have experienced little backlash. Regardless — lesson learned.


BONUS: How the foolishness unfolded on Twitter:


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Chat tonight: Manti Te’o and journalism’s history with hoaxes

Failure. Disappointing. Sloppy. People had a lot to say about the role of journalism in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, and much of the commentary assailed the media.

The criticism has merit, but in the weeks since the scandal unfolded, the more bizarre and complex the details have become. The media cannot be wholly blamed for or excused from the mishap, and all that mess is meaningful to journalism and its mission to report the truth.

Instead of compiling an expert-laden media analysis, SPJ wants to talk to you about it. An issue of this magnitude deserves wide discussion, which is why SPJ will participate in tonight’s #muckedup chat about the media’s tangled history with hoaxes.

Join us tonight at 8 EST for the chat hosted by Adam Popescu (@adampopescu) for Muck Rack. The more SPJ members we can include in this conversation, the better — the topic means a lot to the growth of journalism.

Follow the #muckedup hashtag to participate, and we (@spj_tweets) will see you there.


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Nov. 6: A journalism case study

On Election Day, I sat as a spectator in the arena of journalism, eager to watch unprecedented news coverage unfold. “The first social election,” some called it.

I knew I wouldn’t catch everything, and I certainly didn’t, but my goal on Nov. 6 was to document the election from journalists’ perspectives. My observations are just that — trends I saw among hours of online coverage, which I consumed from one tiny computer monitor with one set of eyes. Given my resources, there’s nothing scientific in my analysis. Nonetheless, I think it has value.

My method: Monitor journalists’ and news outlets’ Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and Instagram activity; check related RSS feeds; repeatedly expand the sample size by exploring others’ Twitter lists, seeking impressionable accounts through Topsy and Hashtracking and browsing news sites to identify election reporters; finally, Storify as much as possible.

After less than an hour of this, I formed four sections within SPJ’s Storify “Journalists on Election Day”: “resources and tips,” “status updates,” “election coverage” and “just for fun.” Nearly everything I collected fit one of these categories, though some could have gone in more than one. It’s amazing what people can fit into a post of 140 or fewer characters.

Twitter was my most plentiful resource. I collected information from more than 180 accounts and learned a lot from the posts I read.

On perhaps the greatest day for civic duty in the U.S., journalists provided a variety of public services. They posted photos of polling places, sent updates of wait times in voting lines, posted links to voting resources and giving citizens multiple ways to access election results. I saw a great effort from journalists to communicate with their audiences.

In terms of election coverage, journalism impressively embraced interactive graphics and (gasp) math. In the four newsrooms I’ve worked, in the scores of conversations I’ve had with reporters, I’ve heard few kind words for math. (And I majored in English writing, so I’m guilty of cringing at math, too.)

“I do words, not numbers.”

“Well, I’m bad at math, so I chose writing.”

You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it (I’ve said it), but that doesn’t mean journalists don’t understand the importance of math — there are plenty of journalists who like math, even love it. But after Election Day, its significance has never seemed clearer. I won’t rehash the commentary from dozens of articles on Nate Silver, but if the emergence of data journalism hasn’t motivated reporters and editors to prioritize data literacy, Election 2012 should.

Ethical debates have gained momentum as a result of the election and use of social media. Instagram use among journalists has great advantages in serving consumers, and it also encourages impressive citizen journalism. The New York Times boasted an impressive collection of readers’ Instagrams on Election Day, too. But the use of Instagram’s editing features and its impact on photojournalism remains a debated ethical issue.

Even ethical topics with deep history, like whether journalists should vote, sparked fervent interactions on social media. It’s more than just voting, though, as journalists frequently take to the Internet with their political commentary and opinions.

Speaking of commentary: The “just for fun” and “status updates” segments of the Storify are, at least from my perspective, highly entertaining. Among the more serious messages like those urging others to vote and describing polling-place atmosphere, you can find many a funny message about caffeine, pizza and the inevitable system failures before a deadline.

As election returns poured in, I scaled back my rate of aggregation, first because this expected coverage didn’t add much value to the Storify and second because I could hardly keep up. What I noticed was an increase in care and accurate reporting from other breaking news that has emerged on Twitter (Hurricane Sandy, the SCOTUS decision on the Affordable Care Act). Perhaps this is indicative of a maturing digital media.

Despite the limits of my journo-tracking, this sample displayed many trends in breaking-news coverage, and I hope news organizations reflect on Election 2012 as they consider how to best deliver journalism amid industry and technology advances. Major news events double as learning opportunities, and journalists need to capitalize on them, specifically this one.


Journalists: What did you learn on Election Day? How will this year’s election coverage impact your approach to planning, reporting and editing? If you wish to weigh in, please engage with this discussion on our Facebook page, or send me an email. I may quote you in a future blog post.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Messy SCOTUS coverage is damaging for media

Today, I am disappointed in journalism.

Not everyone botched the announcement of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling, but plenty of trusted media outlets did a disservice to their audiences by prioritizing speed instead of accuracy.

Like half a million others, I turned to SCOTUSblog at 10 a.m. today, toggling between that and my Twitter feed. At 10:08, the explosion began: The Associated Press said the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. CNN said it was ruled unconstitutional. The Daily Beast said it was struck down at 10:08 but retweeted The AP at 10:09. Confused, I went back to SCOTUSblog to read their measured reports.

twitter feed

My Twitter feed in the seconds following the ruling announcement.

From the SPJ Code of Ethics: “Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

Many of the erroneous tweets and headlines have disappeared from their primary sources, though those blunders live on, thanks to screen shots and the copy-paste function. But the confusion was costly from a future credibility standpoint. The networks and publications that got it right should take note of the ridicule and criticism raining down on their Twitter-happy peers.

Most of my frustration came from seeing the incorrect reports retweeted. As the minutes after the announcement passed, I continued to read posts of misguided happiness and anger, all because a friend of a follower of a follower of a news organization perpetuated the seemingly reliable information.

(Jeff Sonderman of Poynter has a good roundup of and reaction to the inaccurate reports/tweets.)

The social media response to the blunders proves that people would rather get correct information as it becomes available, rather than quickly receive an imperfect report. The point of engaging with a news outlet is to stay informed.

I don’t want to have to congratulate the journalists who waited to verify the ruling to publish the result. They just did their jobs correctly, which I expect of them. I am disappointed that this expectation was not met by others.

The winner in this brawl to break news is SCOTUSblog — it’s a non-traditional outlet started by law professionals, and they presented reliable coverage of the complicated ruling. By 10:22, they had 866,000 people tracking their live blog.

But for the millions who referenced Twitter, breaking news alerts, live TV and 24-hour-news-cycle websites, the day was one of defeat. Regardless of one’s opinion on the legislation, news consumers were exposed to a slew of unreliable reports before being corrected.

I hope health care isn’t the only industry that sees reform after today’s ruling.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Social Media Weekend: A worthwhile venture – and hashtag


What’s the power of a Twitter hashtag?

It can inform and help us see revolution literally before our eyes (e.g. #Jan25 for the Egyptian revolution). It can curate the angst, joy, jeers and cheers of a nation (e.g. #SOTU for the State of the Union). It can bring together a professional community for sharing and learning (e.g. #wjchat for the weekly Web journalism chat).

As I recently found, it can also change your mind for the better.

Columbia Journalism School’s Continuing Education office hosted its second Social Media Weekend Jan. 27-29 in New York. Perhaps you ran across the hashtag #smwknd in your weekend Twitter usage.

It’s an obscure hashtag on the surface. But as hashtag best practices go, it’s incredibly well conceived – short, to the point, reflective of the event’s name and content.

I came across #smwknd at this time last year, when the first conference happened. It was in a tweet from Columbia journalism professor and dean of student affairs Sree Sreenivasan that caught my eye. Sree is to social media training and modern digital journalism education as chickpeas are to hummus: the most essential ingredient. (If you don’t keep up with Sree on Twitter, you should. Like right now. Click here. Now.)

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend in 2011. But I’ll admit I was skeptical at the time whether a full weekend conference on social media would hold my attention. That’s not to suggest I felt in early 2011 – nor do I now – that I know everything there is to know about social media. Quite the opposite. I still struggle sometimes to explain to friends and family the full value of social media in their lives and its connection to journalism.

But even early last year I had seen enough program proposals, conference panels, webinar descriptions, etc. on social media to think the content and quality of social media education had reached a zenith.

However, knowing that Columbia produces some of the best and most digitally savvy journalists and media professionals, I figured it would be a worthwhile venture. It was.

(Plus it gave me an excuse to visit a good friend in New York, David Hoang, who in 2008 put me in front of a computer and literally forced me to join Twitter. “Everyone in journalism needs to be on here,” David told me. He’s a Web designer and artist.)

Below are thoughts on what I learned from Social Media Weekend. I’m sure the experience was different for each person, and what’s true for the journalism industry geek isn’t necessarily true for the marketing professional or technology reporter.

(I won’t duplicate the very comprehensive efforts of conference organizers and Columbia j-students to summarize and curate content from the weekend. See all that, including useful Storify roundups by Mohammed Ademo, at the Social Media Weekend site.)

1) Updates in social media – particularly Twitter – are brief moments in time and history. Make the time count.

I’ve long tried to avoid back-and-forth Twitter conversation that read like a drawn-out text message exchange. There is, after all, a direct message feature for a reason.

However, I’ve had to reconcile that with the notion that social media are, well, social for a reason. The idea that Twitter is conversational and therefore different than a top-down we report/you read approach is one I embrace. Indeed, community engagement is important for a reason, and one way people are engaged is by active participation and response. So, the philosophy for my own usage and for @spj_tweets is Goldilocks-esque: Engage with a few back-and-forth tweets, but not too many. Take it elsewhere (direct messages, email, phone call) if you need deeper conversation.

I still think that’s a worthwhile approach. However, something Sree said was illuminating:


There are all kinds of Twitter users, from comedians who tweet one-liners like it’s their job to those who spend Sundays ranting, almost obsessively, about a certain Denver Broncos quarterback.

All contribute to the ever-expanding index of digital information tracked by Google and, with Twitter, the Library of Congress. This isn’t to say that every tweet should wax poetic on the philosophy of the human condition. But as Sree points out: Social media updates only reach a small amount of those with whom we’re connected, yet they’ll live on in the annals of digital history – accessible, memorable, researchable. Would you rather have your social media footprint lead others to believe you helped spread knowledge and information – or that you hated a guy named Tim Tebow for some unknown reason?


2) Not everyone at your news outlet or non-profit or business needs to actively use social media for professional purposes. But everyone should be trained, encouraged and empowered to do so.

Part of this thinking stems from a session titled “Social Media & Social Good: What the Best Nonprofits and Social Enterprises Can Teach Us.” Former journalist Jim Rosenberg, head of online communications and social media for the World Bank, made a good point:

I could go on incessantly about why all journalists need to use Twitter, no matter their position, beat, etc.

But the larger point is this: If an organization (and I use the term broadly to include news outlets, businesses, non-profit orgs, etc.) uses social media, all employees need to know the essentials: Why, how and for what end?

This isn’t to say all employees need to have the keys to your company’s Twitter account. No, absolutely not. However, everyone should be aware and knowledgeable of why and how you use social media to achieve your desired ends, whether they are gathering and reporting public-interest journalism or marketing your social good non-profit.

Benefits of this:

– You have a “line of succession” of people who know how to use social media within the confines of your organization’s standards. If only one person contributes to social media and that person suddenly leaves or is unavailable, who will take over? Large journalistic institutions to small business startups should have a plan.

– Other people are encouraged to contribute to the operation of the organization and bring fresh perspectives on how to use social media.

– People learn to appreciate the work of the “social media editor” or “community engagement director” or other communications-related role as an integral part of what the organization does. How many people in your organization still inaccurately think a social media editor “just gets paid to use Twitter all day”? There’s an easy way to change that: Show people why that’s not true, and encourage them to see why by testing the value of social media for their own positions and professional development.


3) Whatever you’ve already learned (about social media or any job skill) it’s not enough.

And in most cases, the best way to learn more is to interact and engage with other people who know more than you and/or challenge your viewpoints. Conferences are good places to do that.

Another place to do that is through the very medium – in this case Twitter – in which you’re hoping to improve.


There’s no magic number of Twitter followers to following radio, and it does seem impractical that The York Times would follow the same amount or more than the 4.3 million (as of this writing) people/accounts following it. (Note: I hesitate in writing the term “follow,” as I’ve written before about why it’s wise to avoid it.)

But Sree’s point, one with which I agree, is well taken: There is a near bottomless pool of insight, resources and education floating in social media. (And there is admittedly a lot of useless noise, of course.) You will benefit from continually seeking out, learning from and interacting with those who offer diverse points of view.

So, was Social Media Weekend time well spent? Yes, absolutely. Should you consider attending this event (or others) in the future? I’d recommend it, which is something I can only do having experienced it in person:

Scott Leadingham is editor of Quill magazine. If you’re so inclined, you can join him in discussing, sharing and commenting on journalism and media issues on Twitter: @scottleadingham.

A glance at SPJ’s new Facebook pictures/promos

Facebook released new designs for its fan pages two weeks ago to offer improved engagement with fans, feature photos and provide better analytics for page administrators. We’ve used the upgrades one week later to have a little fun while initiating a new promotional branding idea for the SPJ page.

(Hat tip to Vadim Lavrusik for a helpful Mashable piece about what the new pages mean for owners and users.)

This new idea involves converting the photos displayed on our Facebook page into promotional space to showcase various SPJ programs. The first series includes SPJ’s major communications vehicles so we can help our members and those who engage with us on Facebook (“Likers”?) stay connected with what we’re doing. Each photo includes a brief description of that topic with additional links for more information.

The idea behind this is to highlight other programs provided by SPJ each month, including those for ethics, professional development and freedom of information-related issues. Here is a sneak peek at our FOI pictures:

Coming up with the ideas for this little experiment was fun. After receiving an enthusiastic approval to pursue it from Communications Director and Quill Editor Scott Leadingham, I spent the following weekend developing different concept ideas for how to use the space. The two prototypes used for further expansion include the “Five-for-Five” series listed above and the “Windowpane” series that would conceptually use all five spaces to create one larger image. SPJ’s graphic designer, Tony Peterson, then worked to create the final versions for each series.

When it came time to test our first promotion with the “Windowpane” series, the results were disheartening. We quickly realized that even though page owners have control over what images are displayed on their wall, they do not have control over any consistent ordering of the photos. This is due to a randomization setting Facebook added to the fan page layout versus the average profile page.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t show you what those design series would have looked like. Here is a glimpse at the final concept we had in mind for two different promotions:

Even though we weren’t able to use this technique, it was still vindicating to know the “Five-for-Five” series was invulnerable to the picture randomization setting.

Want to know more about the conversations, limitations and promises this new branding approach is shaping? See my personal blog on who else is experimenting with the new layout.

Andrew M. Scott (@PRMillennial) is the communications coordinator for SPJ Headquarters. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and an SPJ member since 2008.


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