Apparently Twitter is a popular source of breaking news.
When something happens whitenesses grab their phones and tweet.
Probably before they call 999.
As soon as the tweet is sent, it is live.
Viewable by anyone, anywhere in the world.
A few carefully placed hashtags and the tweet can cause quite the storm.
It is certainly a delicious prospect for news junkies everywhere.
Except there is one major flaw.
Trustworthy news sources and Twitter have one key difference: the editor.
When you buy a newspaper you hand over some money in exchange.
The money you hand over suggests that the newspaper has value.
The value can be found in the editor.
The role of the editor is to maintain standards, check accuracy and cherry-pick the news that is relevant to the audience.
Twitter on the other hand is unedited.
That means that there are no set standards, no checks of accuracy and no-one is cherry-picking the news that is relevant to the audience.
There are two depressing things that result from all of this:
1. For every accurate example of citizen reporting on Twitter there are hundreds (if not thousands) of inaccurate tweets.
2. Cunning PR professionals can very easily inject their own spin on an event in the name of diverting attention to their own agenda.
Both of these options are crap for the consumer.
That is why users follow the Twitter accounts of news organisations.
These news organisations ply their trade away from Twitter.
I like to think of their Twitter accounts as embassies in a chaotic foreign land.
The BBC Breaking News Twitter account has over 6 million followers.
That’s 6 million people who crave fast news that is accurate.
The fact that it is the BBC means that fast is not the emphasis.
Having spent some time in a BBC newsroom, one thing I learned was that the editor would rather hold-off on breaking a news item until they knew it was accurate.
The followers on Twitter know that.
They know that their news may be slightly slower, but it will be accurate.
The BBC will never specialise in fast news at the expense of accuracy.
Twitter does, and will continue to do the opposite.
Twitter is a popular source of breaking news.
It isn’t a popular source of accurate news.
*Update – 19/07/2013
The BBC has just published a piece on its new Breaking News Tool (BNT).
It is a tool that allows journalists to publish breaking news.
Note the fact that the BBC BNT is platform agnostic.
Also note that “the BNT [allows] journalists to publish a single accurate breaking news line”.
The word “accurate” is the key there.