We All Strive For Accuracy

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┬áto 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.

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Moderating Anger

This week’s lesson in moderation can be very easily coupled with the lesson in reputation management. Both have a similar outcome, which is to respond to, and if necessary delete, comments from angry consumers in a timely manner that will hopefully resolve the issue. For this assignment, I am acting as a moderator for a fast food chain and a mainstream news network and I will be dealing with angry comments left on their social media pages. These are not real examples and are not directed towards any specific companies or people.

To a fast food chain:

“I am disgusted about the state of your store on 1467 Justin Kings Way. The counter was smeared in what looked like grease and the tables were full of trash and remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response:

“Thank you for informing me of this situation, someone will look into it. I can assure you that this restaurant tries its very best to keep up with health codes and keep our appearance as clean as possible. This includes the kitchen and the dining area. If what you are saying turns out to be true, I apologize behalf of the restaurant that you had to experience that. You may have noticed the trash when our staff was unable to clean up the tables right away. Our cashiers may have been putting in orders or assisting other customers and didn’t have a chance to clean the counter at the time that you entered. Regardless, thank you for the input and we will strive to do better in the future.”

To a mainstream news network (let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides):

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

My response:

I would have to remove this comment from the page because of the obscene/profane language used. However, I would try to message the user privately to explain why the comment needed to be removed. If the user still wanted to complain about the report, I would listen and try to prove that all of the reporting on the network is balanced in a very calm way. However, I feel that the user would not want to continue communication with me or the organization once the comment was removed. The most important thing is removing the comment so very few audience members, if any, would see it. Any other correspondence depends on how the user reacts to the comment being removed.