Verify, then report

Image from the CNN story.
The whole Morgan Freeman’s reported demise blew up yesterday. To be clear, he is not dead or dying.

Twitter can be much like a game of telephone, which is why it is extremely important that the initial tweet that sets off a chain reaction must be verified BEFORE it’s sent.

While CNN is not the perpetrator of the initial incorrect (and subsequently removed) tweet stating Mr. Freeman’s demise, they’re the ones who caught the flack for it.

They responded quickly with this article posted on their website, but not quick enough for the Twitterverse. While I find the response a bit glib, I think the sentiment was correct and CNN is right to do some damage control.

One of the first things reporters learn is to verify and corroborate a story to the best of their ability before going public with it. In the age of the race to be first, incorrect information is going to get out, but when it comes to killing someone before they’re actually dead, the oweness lies on the reporter and organization to make sure the information is correct before sending it.

In retrospect, the initial tweet could have said, “we’re hearing reports that Morgan Freeman has died and are working to confirm or deny that information” and this whole thing could have stopped before it started. As the initial tweet was quickly removed, no one can determine exactly what was tweeted. Deleting the tweet only made it worse because those on Twitter assumed it came from CNN without being able to see it, putting CNN in a bind.

Maybe this is a lesson in leaving your mistakes open in the same way newspapers print retractions? Do you agree?