Source: Eric BARBEAU

Savvy social media use

How can we harness the reporting opportunities presented by social media without falling for a hoax? Established and new media have a responsibility to their readers to re-frame the lessons learned from Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair for a modern context. We might have more readily available sources than ever, but a news organization’s reputation still rests on its perceived trustworthiness. With that said, here are a few (imperfect) ideas for improving verification processes in the world of social media.

  1. Do not post a crowdsourced video or photo without speaking to the original creator and verifying their version of events with outside sources (Google Earth, LexisNexis, social media accounts, etc).
  2. In breaking news events where the public’s safety could be in danger, i.e. during a mass shooting, do not report information if your source will not go on the record. To put this another way, hold yourself to a higher standard when the situation demands more of your reporting.
  3. In breaking news events where the public could be in danger, refrain from asking to speak with people in the middle of the situation (for example, students on lockdown) over social media. Not only is this emotionally exploitative and potentially problematic for law enforcement activities, you will most likely expose yourself to a flood of false reports.
  4. Conversely, if a victim or bystander reaches out of their own accord on social media, do everything in your power to verify their location and personal details before reporting their information (see #1).
  5. In general, save your re-tweets or shares for trusted or verified accounts only.