Why You Need To Verify Tweets Before Including Them In Your Reporting

New York Times social media staff editor Daniel Victor shared a simple tweet last night that says a lot about the hit-and-run-with-it journalism industry today.

The conversation he linked to was his own attempt to connect with a NY resident who had mentioned long voting lines in yesterday’s election. Good thing he verified the author’s intention and didn’t just run with it. Turns out, the tweet was attempting to make a joke:

Fortunately, Victor didn’t just take the tweet and throw it up in a round up of local reactions, something a lot of news organizations do on a variety of events — from elections to storm coverage. In the process of asking for more information, he was able to actually learn that lines weren’t an issue everywhere and avoid misreporting that information based on a speculative tweet.

I think that’s the lesson here for journalists and social media curators: It’s hard to get the full context and correct message/intention in a stranger’s 140 character missive. So don’t. Follow up and maybe you’ll avoid looking silly to someone who does know them or got the joke, or maybe you’ll find something you weren’t expecting to learn. Along the way, you’ll probably at least find out the truth, and after all isn’t that journalism?

Add this to your rules for getting to sources on social media.