One of my biggest pet peeves when reading an article online is that it has to be accurate. Probably the most important component of trust in my eyes is accuracy. I don’t care who breaks a story first, as long as the story they’ve reported is correct. All through my undergraduate degree, in journalism no less, I wrote papers and reported news stories seemingly slower than everyone else. it would take me all day to write something that it would’ve taken someone a couple hours to write, because I made sure everything was accurate. I was so upset with myself when I failed a class assignment in one of my journalism classes because I had one incorrect fact; luckily that story was never published.
When it comes to social media, I think speed unfortunately can take even more of a precedence over accuracy. I am constantly referring to the story of Kyle Massey’s cancer hoax to show what can happen on social media when the facts are not checked. I rarely ever believe something first if I read it on social media, unless I’ve checked with a credible news source beforehand and go back to social media to read the reactions. I also rarely ever say to not pay attention to social media, but sometimes news organizations need to do that. If they want their audience to take them seriously, news organizations need to stay focused on reporting the news as accurately as possible. The publications that turn out to be inaccurate will lose viewership because they cannot be trusted, while the accurate ones will remain on top. I also believe that if a news organization is going to publish a story on social media, which they all should be doing, do not hit “publish”, “post” or “tweet” until you are sure every fact has been checked. If it’s an opinion, say it’s an opinion, but don’t make it seem like it could be fact, especially the way things can spin out of control on social. Speed is great if it is possible, but I would rather be trusted because I am accurate than fast.
The other question posed this week is whether it is ethically right to “unpublish” a story on social media if it turns out to be inaccurate. The short version of that is, it is unethical to erase a story that is inaccurate. There’s a good chance at least one person saw the story or post before it was deleted. It seems to me that it is more ethical to own up to your mistakes, which includes leaving the mistake on social, but clarifying or correcting it for your audience. People are human, we make mistakes. If you want to prove to your audience that it is a real person moderating the social media accounts, don’t pretend like something never happened. You can make a new post with the edits and clarifications, but do not “unpublish” the original mistake.