Wick Communications

Is Facebook enough

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

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Earlier this week, I received a call from Sidney Herald Publisher Libby Berndt. She said that there was a rumor going around town that a Sydney, Mont., native had been killed by an explosive device in Iraq.

Her question was whether she should run with the news of the death of Sgt. 1st Class Darren M. Linde based solely on a Facebook post. I told her I wouldn’t do that.

Increasingly, we’re seeing bonafide news across social networks. There are newsworthy first-person tweets from protesters in Tahrir Square and equally newsworthy Facebook posts from Sydney. In fact, if you aren’t actively watching Facebook and Twitter for news, then you aren’t doing your job.

That doesn’t mean you can believe everything you read on the Web. Your job as a news pro is to verify these things and separate the truth from the rumor. That is especially true when it comes to the death of someone local. You do not want to be apologizing for saying a living human has died. That is among the worst mistakes we can make.

I told Libby that the Facebook post, apparently from the victim’s sister, was likely true. It was certainly reason enough to check it out. I suggested she have reporters call the National Guard unit in North Dakota to try to confirm what friends were apparently saying on Facebook. Herald reporters did just that and produced a definitive breaking news story that is accurate and includes a lot of background on the local hero. …

Incidentally, I follow virtually anyone I can find who is tweeting from Half Moon Bay. And, using an application called HootSuite, I dedicate a “stream” that searches for the term “Half Moon Bay” across the Twitter platform so that I can see tweets from anyone passing through who mentions our fair city. It’s a good way to stay up on rumors of road closures, weather, ball games and virtually anything else under the sun.

I think it was Ronald Reagan, speaking of Russians, who said, “Trust but verify.” That’s pretty much the way I feel about things I read on the social networks.

Clay

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