- I was prompted to bring that question up after it was reported on Saturday evening that the plane carrying Philippine Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had crashed off Masbate. [See: Plane carrying Robredo crashes off Masbate]
An hour or two after the accident, a tweet supposedly citing his daughter’s locked Twitter account went around, saying that Robredo was safe.
The tweet was retweeted by some reporters and high government officials, creating what appeared to be a feedback loop that confirmed—inaccurately as it turned out—that Robredo was safe.
That feedback loop failed to escape my timeline because on Twitter, I follow nearly 600 people, many of whom are accomplished journalists.
What started the ball rolling was when Ms. Twink Macaraig, an anchor at Aksyon TV, asked Ms. Dana Batnag, a reporter for the Japanese news agency Jiji Press:
- But before Ms. Batnag replied, she retweeted Manuel L. Quezon III, Undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
- Ms. Batnag then replied:
- Professor Mahar Lagmay runs Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) that coordinates with agencies for enhanced disaster management and prevention capacity. Charie Villa is the head of News and Online Regional Network Group of ABS-CBN, the Philippines' largest broadcast network and Gang Badoy, a radio show host who is also the founder of RockEd Philippines, an advocacy and alternative education group.
- At one point during the exchange, Ms. Raissa Robles, a journalist who maintains a popular blog, posted a tweet that was retweeted by Ms. Batnag.
- The exchange between the two journalists—who were blockmates at the
University of the Philippines—emphasizes the slippery nature of the
beast that is Twitter.
Ms. Macaraig’s question remains valid.
Why does a Twitter user, especially a journalist at that, keep on retweeting information that may not be easily validated at the time of
The answer seems simple and harmless enough: to keep the tweet in her feed and use them as “notes” as the case may be, to help her put the story in the proper context once she decides to write it.
But isn’t retweeting information that has yet to be confirmed a practice that is discouraged—to use the term loosely—in journalism?
To answer this question, I visited poynter.org and discovered that no hard and fast rules exist regarding journalists' retweets.
"[J]ournalists [should] think of tweets the same way they do quotations in a story," Cory Bergman of breakingnews.com said in this piece from poynter.org.
Bergman added: "A retweet (manual or native), is just simply passing along something you saw. As journalists, we pass along different voices, different opinions. Is adding a quote in a story an implicit endorsement? A sound bite?" (It's in the tenth paragraph)
The act of retweeting—especially for journalists—remains a continuing conversation; a conversation I would venture to say is best discussed on everyone’s 140-character social media platform.
So should retweeting mean never having to say you're sorry?
What do you think?