In the first of his eight simple rules for accurate journalism at the Columbia Journalism Review Craig SIlverman writes: “Initial, mistaken information will be retweeted more than any subsequent correction”.
He calls this the Law of Incorrect Tweets.
Silverman says people are more likely to retweet or like a false news report than pay attention to corrections.
Journalists make mistakes
Mistakes are inevitable with news at the best of time. Pressure to get stories out fast make it hard to confirm facts and properly double-check sources. This is especially true with today’s depopulated newsrooms.
Twitter makes it harder again. There’s even more pressure on journalists to be first with a report and the nature of tweeting doesn’t lend itself to reflective self-editing.
There’s a modern news culture of quickly pushing half-baked stories out to beat competitors.
Speed isn’t of the essence, accuracy is
Later in his piece Silverman makes the point: readers will forget who was first with a story, they will remember who got it wrong. He’s right.
Much as it goes against the grain to say this, scoops are not everything in news reporting. Being the most credible, reliable source for readers is a far better goal.