Blessed are the newsbreakers; but which ones can you trust in the age of Twitter?

There’s a number of great pieces online about where new authority is emerging to challenge the older models, particularly in the wake of the US election and superstorm Sandy. Forbes had this to say in response to a mainstream anchor thanking people for ‘helping out’:

News flash for my local news anchors: the “amateurs” aren’t “helping out” the “professionals.” They are mostly ignoring them. They are mostly sending their pictures to their friends, not to you.

And we’ve seen the (quite reasonable) claims that it was big data rather than individual experts who got the election results right. The commentariat relegated to the status of ill-prepared, would be Astrologists.

Closer to home, Phil O’Kane picked up on a miscue from BBCNI on the illness of Henry McCullough, which was reported and then retweeted by the BBCNI. To declare my own culpability in this, I also re-tweeted it thinking I was quoting a reliable source.

It isn’t the first time, but when will it be the last time? Death hoaxes are becoming a norm through social media, and while it can be irritating, let’s get back to journalism doing the job it set out to do: reporting facts. Can we please stop trying to report the news first.

This is becoming a big problem with so many media outlets, and so many inept, amateur, writers. The BBC appear to be propagating this idea in an effort to keep up, but rather, we need to ensure that news can be relied upon, and the BBC is doing its very best in recent weeks, months and years to ensure that it loses the trust we once had in it.[emphasis added]

Phil’s question’ a good one. And one that asks questions of the way we use Twitter.

Often these days, I’m use it merely to re-tweet what’s new rather than comment. That’s often putting your judgement in the hands of others that I ordinarily trust without necessarily testing it as I would if I were committing to a blog.

Twitter does get it right, in the end. But only after a lot of mistakes and/or partial reporting. The arc of a story that once was only seen inside news rooms is now out on the Tweetdeck for all to see, examine and criticise.

That means living with and owning your mistakes. And as Phil notes, maybe backing off the strongly felt need that all news oriented creatures have to be first with everything.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty