Should journalists confirm information before passing it along on Twitter?

On Thursday many journalists unknowingly perpetuated a hoax that CNN had suspended Piers Morgan due to the British tabloid phone-hacking scandal, sparking a conversation about whether journalists need to slow down before tweeting.

Others have chronicled the spread of the rumor, including TheNextWeb and Ross Neumann with a Storify.

But as people were issuing mea culpas to their followers, Reuters' Felix Salmon wrote a provocative post on his Tumblr blog, suggesting that Twitter is more like a newsroom than a newspaper.

Rumors happen there [on Twitter], and then they get shot down -- no harm no foul. ... In the newsroom, we say things like "did you hear that Piers Morgan just got suspended?" and that's fine. Is it really that bad to say that kind of thing in the newsroom called Twitter? I don't think so.

Many people dismissed Salmon's argument immediately, including commenters on my Romenesko post about it. But many journalists said they think it's acceptable for journalists to pass along unverified information in some situations.

The reactions illustrate how journalists are dealing with the hybrid nature of Twitter -- part conversation, part publishing. And it showed that it can be confusing to apply traditional journalistic methods to new platforms like Twitter.

As Julie Moos, director of, has said, "Speed kills, but slowness is a painful death of its own." Twitter is one of the places where this dilemma is particularly evident.

Here's how journalists are working through this issue.

Correction: This post originally misspelled Mai Hoang's name.

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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