Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Ethics of Deleting Tweets

I don't often write about journalism ethics here, mainly because I have a certain moral flexibility when it comes to getting the story. A rather harmless Twitter mistake fluttered across my desk just a few moments ago and it got me wondering about the ethics of deleting tweets. So here's the tweet from our student newsroom:

A harmless misspelling of Heisman. No biggie. Three minutes later I responded:
And a few minutes later the original tweet was deleted and a corrected version posted. Without a thank you, I should note, so me being me I replied via Twitter: "Better. You're Welcome." That was a little while ago. So far, no thank you.

Anyway, it raises the question (to me, perhaps not to you) whether you should delete the original offending tweet. Keep in mind this is about journalism ethics, not PR, in which obviously you'd delete a mistake or something embarrassing, especially to the boss or client.

On more serious stories, this piece does a good job arguing that, to me, you should correct but never delete the offending post. It's all about transparency. But does this apply to dumb typos? Especially typos that make it seem like Nick Chubb made the mistake when, we all know, it was a harmless mistype by a social media news editor. My own feeling is that it's OK to delete a tweet like above but it's not OK to delete a more serious mistake, as in saying someone is dead when they're not. Again, transparency. At some point we'd like to see a Twitter correction function or even a flag that says this tweet corrects an earlier one.

Or, perhaps, you can just put CORRECTION in the tweet, especially when there's still plenty of space to burn.

And thank your audience when it corrects you.

Yes, you're welcome. Again.

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