As news stories like Michael Jackson’s death and the plane crash on the Hudson break on Twitter before mainstream media, journalists and newsrooms increasingly turn to Twitter to see what’s trending. But sometimes, in our haste to tweet a headline before the competition, we get it wrong. For instance, several news outlets erroneously tweeted that Congresswoman Giffords had died in last year’s shooting. And several Twitter accounts prematurely reported on the death of football coach Joe Paterno earlier this year. Oops!
As Twitter becomes more mainstream, journalists debate options for dealing with these inaccurate tweets. Should we delete the original tweet (which several people take issue with) and post a corrected one? Leave the original tweet for posterity and post a correction? (In its social media guidelines for employees, the AP suggests posting a correction as quickly as possible.)
Problem is, tweets can go viral very quickly, so even if you delete a tweet and post a correction, there could be inaccurate RTs spreading inaccuracies. And bloggers sometimes link to individual tweets (or journalists could use a tweet in a Storify article without seeing the update tweet), so the reader wouldn’t have the context of the correction.
One possible solution, as reported by Poynter and The Verge, is for Twitter to offer a new strikethrough feature so users could mark tweets as errors without deleting them entirely. (This might also be useful for correcting typos. Again, same debate: delete it and pray no one saw the misspelled tweet? Post a corrected tweet?). It makes sense to many journalists, but according to Poynter, Twitter’s creative director Doug Bowman said the feature’s utility is too niche for Twitter to implement. Sounds a bit like HBO’s response earlier this month to the #takemymoneyHBO Campaign where fans used social media to request a standalone streaming service from HBO and the network essentially said, “thanks for your interest but it ain’t happening.”
Granted, I don’t know how feasible this is, but it seems like the perfect opportunity for a third-party service to fill this need. Twitter itself doesn’t offer features like scheduling tweets or automating direct messages, but other companies like SocialOomph and HootSuite do (full disclosure: here at Ebyline, we use HootSuite to manage our social media accounts). Not all Twitter users care about scheduling or automating tweets but for those who do, these add-on services make a lot of sense. Maybe something for the SocialOomphs and the Hootsuites of the world to consider?
Your turn! How do you handle erroneous tweets and would you use a strikethrough feature if it were available? Leave a comment and let us know!