Wick Communications

How do you know it’s true?

In Online media on 4 May 2012 at 9:04 am

Do you believe everything you read on the Internet? How about everything you read in the newspaper?

There is some interesting research afoot into just what we believe and from whom. Poynter author Steve Myers pointed to some of it recently. He writes of research into the Twitter chatter in the immediate wake of the SEALs attack on Osama bin Laden. There is a guy named Keith Urbahn, who was an aide to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He is credited with being the first person to tweet news that bin Laden was dead. His exact words on May 1, 2011, were, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn.”

That “reputable person” turned out not to be his well-connected boss, but rather a TV producer who had heard rumblings and wanted to talk to Rumsfeld Whatever. A number of news outlets jumped on it, each adding another layer of credibility to the story.

Would anyone have believed Urbahn if not for his connection to Rumsfeld?

Brian Stelter of the New York Times passed along the information to his tens of thousands of followers almost immediately. Why? He told Myers, “I considered the following: his Twitter bio; his number of Twitter followers; his Googleable references; and most importantly, what I tweeted later: that reporters in Washington were hearing whispers about bin Laden.” …

One point I’d like to make is this: People often trust us because of our professional associations. That means your personal social media posts have weight you may not always recognize. Be careful. Our jobs come with responsibility.



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