There is no shortage in opinion that journalists using social media such as Twitter are armed with an invaluable tool for staying connected to their patch and enabling communication with an extensive community of sources and readers.
But recent cases of journalists being reprimanded or even sacked for comments made on the instant messaging site repeatedly remind us of the importance of using the mouthpiece with careful consideration. The need for caution was well illustrated by a Washington Post sports columnist this week who sent out a false news tweet from his personal account, which identifies him as a reporter, landing him in hot water with his employer.
Mike Wise was suspended by the Post after sending out a tweet suggesting that a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was being suspended for five games, despite Wise being well aware the figure was inaccurate. He claims it was a ‘test’ of how fast incorrect news can spread over the internet.
But while his test succeeded in showing how quickly that piece of misinformation spread through the web, it also left him with a month-long suspension to reflect on what he admitted was a “horrendous mistake”.
According to a blog post by the newspaper’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander, the fabrication of news is “a major journalistic transgression” and an action for which Wise is “lucky” to not have been sacked for.