Twitter growing pains

When the Mumbai terrorist actions were happening just over a week ago, the BBC kept a live reporting thread on its web page (as they often do in this real-time reporting age). This time, though, the corporation included Twitter messages (“tweets” for the Luddites) that they received from people who were in Mumbai at the time.

This subsequently got reported in the UK media as Twitter “coming of age”. It is probably one of the first major instances where the general public were confronted with Twitter, rather than opting-in to find out more about it.

That reporting has quickly shifted to whether the inclusion of tweets is responsible journalism (at least one tweet has turned out to be incorrect). The BBC has admitted they need to take more care in the future to separate fact-checked reporting from information like this.

And I think that’s fine. As a Twitter user I understood, when I read that stream, that those items were the BBC inserting what are effectively real-time street interviews with people. They’re not corroborated fact. So long as the BBC makes that clear enough for those less savvy about what a tweet is I think it makes a fine complement to more rigorously checked reporting, and needn’t jeopardise the BBC’s reputation.


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