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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Tweeting the scanner from a breaking story

Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) did a great job tweeting from the scene of today’s murder-suicide at John Hopkins, mixing observations with facts and photos. A few tweets passed along unconfirmed information from the police scanner:

These scanner developments turned out to be true — including that a doctor was shot — and Fenton by extension appears to be the first to to break the news. (Interestingly, Baltimore Police released wrong information to the media twice.) In all cases, Fenton attributed scanner reports to the scanner, and in most, he added the word “unconfirmed.”

Under the circumstances, I think this was an appropriate use of Twitter, and Fenton did a great job couching unconfirmed updates. But online news sites typically avoid scanner reports, so I’ll ask, did he do the right thing? Should journalists tweet updates from the scanner during breaking news stories (especially when it’s obvious it’s not a drill)?

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Considering Quran coverage in light of social media

Update: The pastor has called it off, but the small Florida church with plans to burn Qurans on September 11th has raised a plethora of media ethics questions.

ABC News’ Chris Cuomo posted this refreshingly-honest tweet moments after news broke that the pastor canceled the event. I suspect that Cuomo is not alone with this criticism, and social media played a supporting role in a story that spread like wildfire around the world. Which begs the question, should the popularity of a story on Facebook and Twitter impact the news media’s decision on how prominently the story should be covered?

“Social media hasn’t changed those questions,” writes Sarah Lacy on TechCrunch. “It’s broadened them from ivory tower press to anyone with a Twitter feed or a blog. The impact of social media to bring about world peace has been over-stated, but the destructive impact hasn’t. Distribution has been splintered into a million little pieces and so to as the responsibility for how you wield your own sliver of power.”

Your thoughts?