If it seems like just yesterday that we were talking about how error-prone Twitter and other social-media outlets were during a crisis, that’s because it was almost yesterday — Hurricane Sandy, the last event to really stress-test the accuracy of real-time citizen reporting and “networked journalism,” happened just six weeks ago. Now, the shooting of six adults and 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut has raised many of the same issues, since Twitter was filled with inaccurate reports about the incident. For some, this proves that social media is not an appropriate tool for journalism, particularly real-time news reporting. But I think it shows something very different: I think this is just the way the news works now, and we had better get used to it.
Many of those criticising the spread of false reports on Twitter seem to be drawing a firm line between the way that people behave on social networks and the way that “real” journalism is practiced by traditional news sources such as the New York Times or CNN. And yet, many traditional sources — including both of those trusted institutions, as well as plenty of other TV news programs — reported some or all of the same inaccurate news that swept through Twitter. On top of that, the two have become so intertwined that much of the news (both accurate and inaccurate) about the shootings that appeared on television likely started on Twitter or Facebook.