Twitter for Newsrooms is a new resource from Twitter clearly aimed at journalists who to use the platform. It’s basic stuff, but useful for journalists coming to Twitter for the first time, and I am inclined to translate this into Sinhala and Tamil for my classes at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ).
There is however a glaring shortcoming in the guide. Journalists new to Twitter need to be told that not everything that goes up on Twitter is true, accurate and verified. While this may sound obvious for many, my experience is that those new to web based social media (a) implicitly trust it more than say mainstream media websites (b) lack the skills to ascertain the veracity of information published on the platforms. This is a dangerous combination, and the guide in giving journalists the skills to use Twitter may actually exacerbate a growing problem of impersonation online, from Amina Abdallah (the supposed gay girl in Damascus) to ‘Marc‘, who presented himself as an American gay rights activist disillusioned with the latest Gaza flotilla campaign. While both of these impersonations were not via Twitter, they do flag the danger of trusting and acting upon content posted online sans any verifiable marker of authenticity. Given that these markers are themselves under constant revision as web based media and social networking evolves, you can imagine the confusion it could lead to. A cogent example was the so called ‘Twitter Revolution’ in Iran two years ago, which if one was following international media, would have appeared to be a country full of Twitter accounts. The reality was far more complex.
Fortunately, Twitter itself published one of the best resources for tweet verification. Sadly, the entry from April 2010 is now buried deep in the Twitter Media blog, but is absolutely vital reading for anyone who finds Twitter for Newsrooms useful and indeed, even those more advanced in using Twitter. The tweet verification blog post is written by Craig Kanalley, traffic and trends editor at Huffington Post and creator of Breaking Tweets.