Some folks at ABC News might want to read (and even add to) this piece we ran last week by Craig Silverman about “how to correct an errant Tweet,” judging by this report from Mediaite’s Glynnis MacNicol this morning.
Just after 9:30 @ABCWorldNews twittered this: BREAKING: President Obama will name Elena Kagan his nominee for the Supreme Court, @jaketapper reports. As you will see, he did not, and the tweet has since been deleted.
It was picked up by one @lensmith22 who RT’d it.
Shortly thereafter Jake Tapper responded…on Twitter: “@ABCWorldNews no I dont.” And then apparently tried to do damage control…
Not the kind of Twitter exchange you expect to see from a network news operation and their star Washington reporter.
UPDATE: MacNicol updates:
We spoke to an ABC News spokesperson who explained what happened. Turns out ABC (and other networks, we are told) periodically conducts internal drills to prepare for breaking stories concerning major news figures (sort of like war games for journalists). That was what this was. Tapper, and others, were reporting a fictitious news event over an internal loudspeaker. The ‘report’ was preceded by DRILL DRILL DRILL FOR DRILL PURPOSES THIS IS NOT TRUE followed by the ’story.’ Apparently, a DA whose responsibility it was to ‘cover’ this only heard the ‘report’ part and tweeted it thinking it was real. And then quickly realized it wasn’t and the tweet was deleted. But the internet being what it is, not before a whole lot of people, including us, saw it.
Which circles back to why I suggested Tapper and other ABC News folks might want to read that Silverman piece from last week. Siverman’s piece was about “the breaking tweets business” and what one news organization did when faced with the challenge of correcting or reining in an errant impression made via its own “breaking news tweet” (which was, of course, re-tweeted by others). ABC News went through a similar experience today — trying to rein in an errant tweet (in this case, a tweet reporting that ABC News’s Tapper had reported something he had actually not reported). Surely, based on what they went through today, someone at ABC News has something to add to the discussion Silverman started?
But back to MacNicol’s update, which raised a couple of questions for me.
ABC News and other networks “periodically conduct internal drills to prepare for breaking stories concerning major news figures?” Interesting in itself (I’m curious about how these drills work, exactly— something to look into).
“Tapper, and others, were reporting a fictitious news event over an internal loudspeaker. The ‘report’ was preceded by DRILL DRILL DRILL FOR DRILL PURPOSES THIS IS NOT TRUE followed by the ’story.’ Apparently, a DA whose responsibility it was to ‘cover’ this only heard the ‘report’ part and tweeted it thinking it was real.” If you’re going to have a drill “reporting a fictitious news event over an internal loudspeaker” in your news organization, wouldn’t it be better to go with an “event” that is clearly “fictitious,” something that screams this is not real, like, say, “BARNEY THE DINOSAUR IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER EATING A DOZEN KFC DOUBLE DOWNS?” Rather than something as plausible-sounding (indeed, anticipated) as having the scoop on the identity of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee? Just in case someone doesn’t hear the disclaimer?Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.