I’ve been thinking a lot about using the wires lately, and the good and bad that come from them.
In my current role as an online news producer I use them a lot more than I did in my previous role with More4 News, where I worked on longer-form, longer lasting projects.
Since reading Flat Earth News, and having it change my whole outlook and all, I’ve been looking more critically at certain aspects of the modern news media that may have slipped my attention before.
The wires are a case in point. All news organisations rely too heavily on the ‘news’ as agencies such as Reuters and AP, and in Australia’s case, Australian Associated Press, deem fit to report it. This is obviously well documented, but in the online age it leads to cock ups, such as mine the other day.
This brings me to Twitter. I tend to use it as a kind of feed when I’m at work (@SBSNews) but I saw for myself the clear problem of relying on someone else’s reporting the other day, matched with the desire to be first (take that, ABC Online), only compounded by using Twitter.
The issue arose with the ‘abduction’ of children from Haiti last Sunday.
“Just in on the wires: Haitian police holding 10 US citizens on suspicion of trafficking children” I tweeted. I absolved myself somewhat by crediting it to the agency at hand – but how foolish.
It was made quite clear to me a few minutes later I’d made a mistake.
“Update: The 10 US citizens held on suspicion of ‘trafficking’ children members of a charity called New Life Children’s Refuge”, I was forced to backtrack.
So clearly, no evil trafficking of children for the purpose of kidney harvesting.
More likely a bureaucratic cock-up.
More spurious news organisations (I’m thinking of Australia’s only 24 hour news channel) were quite happy to run with the misleading ‘trafficking’ tag for a few more hours, even once it was abundantly clear, but I’d learnt a lesson: Put your trust in the wires at your peril – Twitter won’t be your friend when you make a howler.
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