The U.S. Coast Guard is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of a hoaxer who claimed there was a yacht explosion off the New Jersey coast Monday.
“This person was somewhat calm but was giving us a convincing story,” said Coast Guard Capt. Gregory P. Hitchen Tuesday at a news conference about the hoax.
News organizations reported on the alleged explosion — with possible deaths — for several hours. Poynter’s Al Tompkins Storified the coverage (below), which illustrates that some tweets source the explosion information to the Coast Guard while others simply state the information definitively. During breaking news, when little is unconfirmed by direct reporting, one way to increase credibility is to be transparent about sourcing.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that Coast Guard activity caused a number of media outlets to report incorrect information. On Sept. 11, 2009, CNN reported the Coast Guard had fired on a ship in the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. The report was quickly picked up by other outlets. In fact, the Coast Guard was conducting a routine training exercise and no shots had been fired.
One risk of sharing inaccurate information: It travels farther faster than the updated correction. || Related: How to publish credible information while news is breaking | 8 must-reads on how to verify information in real-time | False Paterno death reports highlight journalists’ hunger for glory