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.

Writing at Alfred Hermida says most journalists approach Web 2.0 services like Twitter with a Web 1.0 mindset. He’s right, many media organisations insist their reporters use Twitter as a broadcast media and not for dialogue.

Hermida, a journalism professor, looks at a list of best practices guidelines for journalists using Twitter. Top of the list are two I consider the most important:

  • Have a voice that is credible and reliable, but also personal and human
  • Be generous in retweets and credit others

Too often media tweeters come across as cold and impersonal. In some cases the Twitter accounts feel robotic, because that’s exactly what they are.

And media outlets are often the least generous when it comes to crediting sources. Perhaps they fear they’ll lose readers if they point them elsewhere. Of course, they will lose some traffic that way, but they’ll gain more in terms of credibility by being more open and generous. » 10 best practices for Twitter for journalists.

In A journalist kicking it old school on Twitter ABC reporter Mark Colvin writes about the way journalism has changed in recent years.

He quotes tips from researcher Jess Hill on how to cultivate sources on Twitter:

If you’re going to cultivate sources on Twitter, make sure you stay in touch with them, even when nothing’s happening.

Show them you care about them as people, that they’re not just a story – develop a relationship, just like journalists have always done. That way when something does happen, they will probably get in touch with you, or may at least prioritise you for an interview when every journalist in the world is suddenly chasing them.

Which is much that same as cultivating sources on the phone or in person. Twitter’s remote nature means it’s important to remind ourselves of the human touch.

In June we looked at Can Twitter be journalism? At the time I concluded Twitter could be journalism, but that’s not how most journalists use it.

Over the past week, Liam Tung at ZDnet Australia has shown just how powerful the 140 character messaging service is in the hands of a skilled reporter.

Tung is providing daily coverage of the trial between Perth-based ISP iiNet and the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

He is also providing frequently updated tweets from the court room.

You can follow Tung’s tweets through Twitter from his home page(LiamT) or by tracking the #iitrial hashtag.

ZDNet also publishes the feed on a web page. This makes sense because it’s hard to make money from a Twitter feed, but a popular web page traffic sells plenty of advertising.

So. Farewell

Social networking

Whatever that’s supposed
to mean in English

Keith’s mum used to
Tweet things.

Like “I had
for breakfast”

And other
of wisdom

EJ Thribb age 17 1/2

(with acknowledgement to Barry Fantoni and Private Eye magazine. I was inspired to write this after reading news headlines saying ‘Twitter is dead’).

Australian tech journalist Renai LeMay says Twitter is journalism. He’s right but only up to a point.

LeMay writes;

Journalists are not simply using Twitter to promote their own work and get news tips. This is nowhere near to being the whole truth. In fact, audiences are using Twitter as a powerful tool to engage with journalists directly and force a renewal of journalism and media along lines that audiences have long demanded.

Well some are.

I follow Australian and New Zealand journalists on Twitter. I’d say only 40 percent of journalists are using Twitter in the way LeMay suggests.

Some use it to promote their stories. They aren’t joining the conversation, they use Twitter as a broadcast medium. I suspect, but can not prove, this usually is because of dumb managerial restrictions on their use of the technology. A small percentage dabble in engagement, going on and off-line depending on their workload (I’m guilty of switching off Twitter when there’s a looming deadline and a huge number of words to write).

The rest are still in the dull “morning tweeps” and “I had muesli for breakfast” or the more disturbing narcissistic school of Twittering.

via Twitter’s impact on media and journalism « Renai LeMay.

Journalist Simon Sharwood aimed this advice at public relations people, but the same basic principles apply to anyone new to Twitter.

Basic rules are don’t be selfish, don’t be evil.

Post 7, 2009. Twitter Do’s and Don’ts for PRs « JargonMaster

Don’t lurk. Twitter has become very conversational. If you are listening, but not talking, you are not adding value to the social network and people will not value your input. In fact they’ll think you are a pathetic bandwagoning n00b, which will NOT be good for your reputation.

If you must lurk to get a feel for Twitter or to watch journos in the hope of learning something, do so by reading your intended friends’ tweets as RSS feeds before joining yourself. Consuming Twitter through feeds means you can do so anonymously, a good idea while you learn.

It was time to act when an email appeared titled “making money w/mlm is now following you on Twitter!”

That’s one follower I certainly won’t be following. This spammer did little to hide his or her intent, other Twitter spam merchants are slightly, mind you only slightly, more stealthy in their approach.

I’ve learnt to weed them out this way:

How to spot a dodgy Twitter account

  • Giveaway names:
    ‘Making money w/mlm’ is a dead giveaway. Names are slightly more obtuse or lyrical and yes, spammers also hide behind real-sounding names
  • Glamorous photographs
    Let’s face it, attractive young blond women who look vaguely like supermodels or Playboy pin-ups are unlikely followers. Of course there are good-looking people among my genuine followers, but spammers use over-glamorous photographs as a lure.
  • Number following
    Nobody, but nobody, has 3000 friends. So people who are following large numbers of Twitter accounts are automatically suspect. The exception to this rule are people in roles such as tech support.
  • Following follower ratio
    Someone who follows many people but only has a few followers in return is automatically suspect. You can find tools to help automate the process of purging these from your follower list.
  • Location
    I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I  don’t know anyone in India or the Philippines. Of course that doesn’t make everyone from those places a spammer.
  • Bio
    If the bio includes a phrase like “Entrepreneurial marketing leader – passionate about brands marketing technology” the person behind it is almost certainly a spammer. Incidentally this bio is a real one from someone who followed me yesterday.
  • Links
    Web links with terms like and so on are dead giveaways.

If a new follower arrives and I can tick the boxes on more than two of these bullet points, I’m going to block them.

Can you think of any warning signs I may have missed?

Update: if you haven’t seen Twitter spam, this explains it: Something’s Going Down @Twitter

You can Twitter all you like. Poke half the world on Facebook. And polish your Linkedin profile until its buttons shine. But according to Jason Falls, social media activity on its own won’t find you a job.

He says if you’re seriously looking for employment, you need to get out and meet people or, at least, get on the phone.

Falls is right. We all know that. But two things make his point valuable.

  • First, he offers his own personal story as evidence.
  • Second, Falls is a director of social media and his view was published on his Social Media Explorer web site.

Why Social Media Won’t Get You Hired In A Recession.