The latest “celebrity death” to make the rounds on Twitter happened mid-day Thursday and was fueled by mainstream Canadian press. The “Drudge-ification” of North American news seems complete.
What’s more interesting than the Twitterstream is how the media treated their stories after the false report (AKA rumor) was outed.
The Gordon Lightfoot story was relatively short-lived and did not reach stratospheric numbers on Twitter (about 0.25% of all tweets). Some have used the short-life as an example of Twitter’s ability to self-correct. I don’t think that’s really the case; people were still making “he’s dead” retweets that contained links to the updated CANWEST story. That’s tweeting before thinking, a behavior that we need to haze.
Case Number 1: Keep the link, update the story
CANWEST was widely criticized for running the initial story reporting that Gordon Lightfoot had died. But rather than kill the link to the story, the media organization continued to update the story.
And the URL remained the same.
This is a key best practice. The revised story appeared on all CANWEST websites, so if someone clicked a link in a tweet that said ‘Gordon Lightfoot is dead’ — the result would be the news that the singer/songwriter was very much alive. Unfortunately, lots of people retweet without checking out the link that’s in the tweet.
Case Number 2: Kill the link, pretend it never happened
The converse happend at CBC Radio3. Maybe their software doesn’t allow revisions; if that’s the case, it’s time for application surgery (or burial).
An Incomplete Paper (erh, electronic) Trail
These tweets were harvested using Twitter’s advanced search. I searched for “Lightfoot and dead” as well as “Lightfoot and not dead.” I searched for “Lightfoot and died” as well as “Lightfoot and not died.” I also have what I think is a comprehensive archive of tweets with links that go back to 11.23 AM, the earliest Tweet that I found.