Chat replay: How should journalists handle incorrect tweets?

In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting last weekend, journalists have been talking about the difficulties they faced when deciding how, and whether, to correct erroneous reports on Twitter.

We continued the conversation during a live chat with Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, Scott Rosenberg and Lost Remote's Steve Safran, who talked about the various options that journalists have when dealing with incorrect tweets.

Safran helped start the conversation in a post about how incorrect reports of Giffords' death spread on Twitter. The piece explained that Retuers, CNN and the BBC had tweeted that Giffords died, raising questions about whether news organizations should delete incorrect tweets or instead leave them as is and write a corrected follow-up tweet.

NPR's Andy Carvin, who handles NPR’s tweets, said that instead of deleting the tweet he wrote about Giffords being dead, he posted another tweet saying, “Update: there are conflicting reports about whether she was killed.” Carvin didn’t retract the original tweet, he said, because he wanted to be transparent about NPR’s mistake.

This is a similar approach to what Rosenberg suggested earlier this week in a related blog post. "It’s almost always better to correct than to unpublish," he wrote. "Removing information you’ve already disseminated -- sometimes called 'scrubbing' -- always leaves open the possibility that you’re trying to hide the error or pretend it never happened."

Several readers responded to the argument, including Sullivan, who argued that errors will spread more if incorrect tweets aren't deleted.

In response to the issue, Kathryn Schulz, author of "Being Wrong," suggested that maybe Twitter could play a role in helping journalists deal with this issue.

“The fact is that everyone who’s involved in spreading news also needs to be involved in correcting it -- and, right now, in helping to figure out how best to do so. That includes the people at Twitter,” she said. “Why not have a ‘correct’ function (like the ‘reply’ and ‘retweet’ functions) that would automatically send a correction to everyone who had retweeted something that contained an error?” (I reached out to Twitter to see if the company had ever considered or would consider adding a "correct" function but was declined an interview.)

You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat.

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon