August 4, 2014

On Sunday and Monday, BBC News social media editor Chris Hamilton spent some time batting down a rumor on Twitter that said the BBC had pulled Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen from Gaza. The reports started with this tweet, from Raajje News:

Hamilton replied within an hour:

That original tweet was retweeted more than 1,000 times. Hamilton replied to a lot of people who passed on the news. (On Aug. 1, Bowen tweeted that he was on vacation.)

Here are three tips we can take from Hamilton on dealing with rumors on social media.

  1. Take the time to do it:

    “I look at it is an important part of my role, to do what I can to set the record straight, if needed, when there’s an issue that lots of people are talking about, for an extended period of time,” Hamilton said in an email.

  2. Don’t take too much time, though:

    “It’s not rocket science, but the key is to focus on where you might make a difference,” Hamilton said. “For example, tweeters that have large numbers of followers and/or their tweets are driving the conversation. It doesn’t always work but I think it’s important to get the word out and not throw your hands up and say there’s nothing to be done.”

  3. Don’t work alone:

    “Being able to point to a credible place where the facts are clearly and simply laid out always helps,” Hamilton said. “For example, a press release. In this situation, our head of Newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, tweeted unequivocally about the situation.”

Poynter also has some good and related tips on how to deal on social media.

In 2013, Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti wrote “How to handle personal attacks on social media.”

Poynter’s News University also has courses on using social media, including “Getting It Right: Accuracy and Verification in the Digital Age.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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