First in Tucson on Jan. 8, tweets erroneously reported that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had died in the tragic attack at the “Congress on the Corner” event. Giffords is, in fact, alive.
Then, during and after the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 23, tweets were being fired-off about the health and heart of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler does, in fact, have a knee injury that forced him out of the game.
Citizen journalists – if that is what we are to call them – have no boss, no editor and other than their own personal credibility, no reason to verify facts before tweeting. And we see the aftermath.
In Cutler’s case, there is no editorial board to guide tweets even though they can be sent with limited or no actual knowledge of the situation. One of the first things we teach our spokespeople during media training is, “Don’t speculate. If you don’t have all the facts, don’t guess or make them up.”
While Twitter has become a major communications tool – user beware!