How to Tweet Accurate Info to Be a Citizen Journalist on Twitter
How do you credit a source on Twitter or assure people that the news you tweet is accurate? As much as possible, offer proof that your news is valid. Here’s how:
Include a link. The most basic thing you can do is link to a reliable source or, if you can’t verify, post the item as a question, asking others to share verification.
The BBC learned this lesson the hard way when they posted an unverified rumor to BBC.com during one of the first major world news events to break on Twitter, the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. BBC’s website said Twitter was the source but did not link to a Tweet that could be used to corroborate its validity. The rumor persisted because so many Tweets linked to the BBC story.
Once again in 2013, journalistic incompetence caused unfounded rumors about the identities of Boston Marathon bombing suspects to go crazy on Twitter. The New York Post recklessly put unconfirmed, identifiable photos of young men who were not suspects on their cover. Electronic versions of the image and the article had gone completely viral before it was uncovered that the Post had made such a serious error.
Torn about which link to share on Twitter when you post about a breaking news story? You might consider Wikipedia.org links because the entries are so thoroughly and rapidly fact-checked by myriad contributors and editors during the turbulent early hours of a story.
Whatever site you prefer, look for one that frequently and thoroughly updates their stories with new information as it breaks. That way your Tweet is still useful if it’s seen much later or if it gets repeated and shared over a long period of time. It also makes things a bit more self-correcting as the facts come in.
Author a blog post. If you already have a blog, you might consider starting a new post to track and update the broader details of what you are sharing. In this post, you have more space to credit the sources of your news, and the ability to go back and update the information.
To tweet about what you’re observing, just link to that blog post. Make sure to keep your post updated with credit for each story and responsible updates wherever possible.
Build a network based on trust and continued reliable information. Not only should you make sure that the people you follow and associate with are trustworthy, but you should also be certain that the people in your network feel the same about you.
Don’t underestimate the power of the retweet. The retweet (one of your followers repeats your Tweet for the benefit of her own followers) is critical to networking and viral spread. Retweets of your posts give them a level of validity because retweets prove what you say is worth repeating.
Most third-party Twitter clients have built-in buttons next to each Tweet in your stream that let you easily set them up for a retweet, just like Twitter.com and its official mobile apps.
If you retweet, try to credit the original poster. Breaking news is an excellent time to forgo the “manual” RT and just use that retweet button on every Tweet. Otherwise, the 140-character limit can mean you need to shorten the Tweet and also risk obscuring who the original author was. If you manually retweet, clearly include the name of the original author to acknowledge your source.
Third party Twitter clients and the Twitter mobile app offer you a choice between the two retweeting methods, each of which have different applications depending on why you are sharing the other user’s Tweet and what you may want to add to it.