Breaking news tweets need context

By: Sarah Fulton

Should journalist tweet? My opinion has always been always been unwavering. Of course  journalist should tweet because they can reach a mass audience quickly. However, in August a new Twitter feature  caused me to question my stance.The feature allows users to view related news headlines below tweets. If newspapers were on Twitter than why was this necessary. 

Image by: Rosaura Ochoa

Image by: Rosaura Ochoa

I turned to the all knowing Google and discovered my answer.  140 characters does not allow for a great deal of context. An article by the Poyunter Institute was what really changed my mind. The article discusses how news sites failed to encapsulate the entire story behind the sentencing of Bradely Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning. Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy but charged on many other counts and sentenced to 35 years in jail.

The Washington Post tweeted, “BREAKING NEWS: Judges finds Bradely Manning NOT GUILTY of aiding enemy”

The Washington Journal tweeted, “ US Army Pfc Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy for giving secrets to WikiLeaks”

These two tweets completely misrepresent the situation. They do not give enough context or information for readers to fully understand the story. They are relying on readers to click the link and read the full story. However, I doubt most readers clicked the link.

The new feature might solve some of this problem by allowing readers to see other headlines and get a better view of the situation without clicking a link.

It is important to note that several news sites did manage to provide a complete representation of the charges in tweets.

The New York Times tweeted, “Breaking News: Manning Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy but Convicted of Multiple Other Counts”

The new feature cannot hurt but it is important for journalist to make the news painfully clear. A certain amount of effort does have to be on the part of the consumer but journalist should make their job easy.

Do you think new give enough context in their tweets? Will the new feature help anything?


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