Monday, April 26, 2010

How to correct a moving record, on Twitter

You've hit the mother lode and broken news on Twitter...and now you need to make a correction, because what you shared is incorrect--and being shared over and over again by others.  A new format for correcting the record on Twitter is taking shape, and this post on the Columbia Journalism Review blog by Craig Silverman does a great job unpacking it for you.  He uses the fresh example of an @BreakingNews tweet (operated by about a possible second Icelandic earthquake, and while the tweet included a tempered verb to make the news sound less definitive, the re-tweets tended to strip out the nuances. The lesson--still a work in progress--includes these three tips:
  1. Provide a backchannel to add more depth about what's going wrong and why.
  2. On Twitter, one correction isn't enough to be sure everyone gets the message. Repetition over time is essential--think stream, not drop.
  3. Signal clearly.  In this case, saying data "indicates" a second volcano didn't convey the intent--that the news was tentative. Most readers took it as a reality. (This is a common problem in conveying technical and scientific terms, where "theoretical" means "potentially wrong" to public audiences and "hardened fact, proven by research" to scientists, for example.)  Watch those nuances, euphemisms and unintended other uses of your terms.
A hat tip to RobinLloyd for putting this good find on my Twitter doorstep.  What else would you add to this starting list of tips for making corrections on Twitter? Leave your ideas in the comments.

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