Should mainstream media outlets break news on their social media channels?

As the pace of journalism gets faster by the day, the ownership of a scoop becomes more and more difficult to achieve.

Should mainstream media outlets break news on their social media channels?


Katherine Goldstein, Innovations editor,
Former green editor of The Huffington Post, she played a key role in Slate relaunching its news blog earlier this year. 

As the pace of journalism gets faster by the day, the ownership of a scoop becomes more and more difficult to achieve. In turn, the window a reporter has to break news is smaller than it has ever been - and it's closing rapidly.

Twitter was made for breaking news stories - it's hard to even remember how people followed developing news before the site existed.

There are more than 200 million people using the service and there's simply no going back to more orderly times. As such, to forbid mainstream reporters from breaking news on Twitter - or other social media channels - cripples them when they are at their most valuable. It puts them at a serious competitive disadvantage.

No website can post a story faster than it takes to tweet something and the time it takes to get a story ready for publication can mean the difference between getting rightful credit for hard-won scoops and getting ignored.

Of course, the potential to misuse Twitter exists, but we should not limit the medium just because people need to be careful with it. Instead, we should train journalists about responsible best practices on the site.

All writers should treat breaking news on Twitter with the same seriousness they take breaking it on a website. Reporters should understand that the desire to be first on a story isn't an excuse for being impulsive or sloppy.

When a writer breaks news on Twitter it gives him or her authority. It is also certain to garner that reporter more followers and attract attention to their current and future stories - all of which will benefit not only that individual, but also the organization that employs them.

Instead of treating Twitter as a menace to their profession, news organizations should be embracing the site for its amazing abilities to spread news. And instead of worrying about their employees misusing it, they should empower writers and editors to use the site smartly to their competitive advantage.


Patrick Stiegman, VP and executive editor/producer,
The 20-plus-year journalism veteran joined the award-winning site in 2004. 

The good things that come to those who wait? Turns out they are just leftovers from those who got there first. So it goes with social media, where speed rules, no fact is allowed to ripen, and no rumor is too raw to start. But while media outlets face an incongruous choice - be first or the most authoritative? - that's a false dichotomy. You can be both, presuming a commitment to credibility and transparency.

Social journalism is transformative, facilitating curation, distribution, and newsgathering. Twitter is fundamentally a real-time news feed and journalists are competitive. Most follow each other, creating a circular game of who-beat-whom. The temperature around a story rises if reporters sense competition, which can portend carelessness.

But accuracy, fairness, and updated details can weather the social storm. The danger in breaking news first on a site like Twitter is twofold: vetting and service. How many people does the Twittersphere have to pronounce dead before they actually, you know, die? And why should users be forced to leave media company sites or networks to get news first, especially when most viewers still gather on those core platforms?

News organizations employ checks and balances to protect against inaccuracy, agenda, or outside influence. There are limited safeguards in the often unedited, unmonitored hallways of Twitter. So we ask contributors to consider a few guidelines.

Think before tweeting and re- tweeting - disseminating others' tweets represents an endorsement. And don't "break" proprietary news on Twitter. Public news, such as news conferences, should be distributed immediately. Sourced news must be vetted by editors and producers, who verify sourcing and compare sometimes inconsistent information from multiple reporters. Once reported on our platforms, news can and should be distributed on social sites, often simultaneously (or moments thereafter).

This buttresses credibility. Reporters can get it both right and first, but every mistake is one too many. The key component of the right-and-first equation is the former - that's the foundation of trust and the reason users return. 

PRWeek's View
With how news is now consumed, outlets have little choice but to break stories on their social media sites. But they must ensure that the desire to be first does not outweigh the accuracy and credibility expected of mainstream outlets

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