The Danger of Getting Our "News" From Twitter

I’m old enough to have gotten my news from Walter Cronkite. Now it comes from @fillintheblank. And @fillintheblank hardly has the gray hair, much less the resume, to warrant the job. Like many, I learned about the horrific Arizona shooting via Twitter. It came sandwiched between my attempts to bring something new to the iPhone/Verizon saga and my rewarding experience of identifying and following some of the leading social stars through Of course, my activities halted as I monitored news of the fate of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She tragically had died. Then she hadn’t. It immediately took me to the 1980s and my days as a wire service reporter. For some reason, I thought of the time when someone called our newsroom to say that Frank Sinatra had been shot dead by his wife. Only he hadn’t. But if Twitter provided the megaphone those days, might someone had jumped at the faulty information and created a “story”, not to mention heartbreak in the Sinatra family and beyond? Little more than 24 hours after the awful events in Tucson, like most, I’m left with more questions than answers. Was someone -- or more than one -- irresponsible or reckless in reporting the news that spread amazingly fast on Twitter and the Web? After all, the tweets primarily came from reports from CNN and NPR, two reputable news organizations hardly known for their poor journalists. Did personnel at CNN and/or NPR fail at their Moments of Trust with us by reporting the “death” faster than they would have before the advent of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle? Does Twitter pressure journalists to rush to judgment? Who’s a journalist anyway? Anyone can be an iReporter, iWitness or iKnowItAll and have ample channels to “report” on something as important as life or death. NPR is asking its own questions today, including whether you can – or should even try – to unring the Twitter bell by removing a tweet We’re too chronologically close to begin to have the answers. Suffice it to say that each of us with a voice that can be heard – and that means everyone with a Twitter account, blog, Facebook page, etc. – has to think before pushing the send button. You never signed up for that task, you say? Tough. It’s our responsibility to be responsible.