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Cobyrne

Viewing twitter as a individual entity is the real mistake here. Twitter is a completely open service and is comprised of many many voices. "...twitter should bow out of news generation..." is an expectation that doesn't even make sense. Essentially, they're expecting _everyone_ on twitter to not mention a subject which is completely unrealistic. What's more if those with information withhold it, the uninformed rumours will only spread to fill the vacuum. Only if those people who have information are as open an honest in releasing it with full disclosure of the quality of the information can rumour be minimised.

Joe

But it can equally cause the spread of lies - look at the rumours today that John Giles had died.

I'm a twitter user myself and I'm not condemning the medium, but there is an issue with the spread of news on it.

Trjh

o, you're saying a lot of people knew already, so it was ok to talk about it here -- a lot of people seemingly being the friends who were at Gerry Ryan's apartment, and anyone they told, and so on... Which could well encompass everyone in Irish media circles. Somehow I doubt that's a statistically significant percentage of the Irish population on twitter or elsewhere. (Mind you this is a small country, in ways that continually surprise me, and I could be wrong.)

Your second argument is that the media do it, so why can't twitter? This is a good argument against the media criticizing early twitter reporting, but it says nothing to whether the reporting should be done or not.

This is definitely a big story. Still, the urgency of reporting it, before someone else, seems insignificant in respecting a family's desire to ensure that the story reached all its members from a friendly source, and not an impersonal one. I am impressed with RTE's restraint in maintaining silence, presumably on principle, for an hour after the competition had started talking about it.

Overall I don't think either of your arguments is very strong.

Niall harbison

I just think it's a shame that people are trying to get one up on each other in a time when the real story is the death of the greatest broadcaster of his generation. You can't control Twitter more than you can control 6 people who got texted the message while sitting in a pub. I think most people are smart enough to validate the breaking story they see on Twitter through official channels and this is happening increasingly quickly. Although you can't control the spread of news these days I do see the flip side of the argument because the last thing we want to happen is where somebodies wife finds out their husband has died after seeing it Rt'd on Twitter. I think common sense has to prevail and if somebody like Adrian is tweeting that Gerry Ryan has died there is a good chance that he has in fact died and he is not risking his reputation on some hunch to be seen to break it on Twitter first. Sad day :(

Mark Tighe

Adrian, you are a journalist so your tweets on a breaking news subject carry more weight than others. Your tweets on Ryan's death around 2pm reported “claims” that he had died.

If you were confident enough of your "numerous and strong" sources and you wanted to tweet about it why wouldn’t you simply state Ryan had died as a fact? I think it’s because you weren’t 100% and if you weren’t 100% I don’t think you should publish rumours that Gerry Ryan had died. After 2pm the gardai were confirming Ryan had died so it wouldn’t have taken much of an effort to get an official source. Instead: “Spreading like wildfire. Gaining credence. Still unconfirmed, though.”

Surely journalists shouldn’t be engaging in rumours on such a serious subject unless they are confirming or refuting something. A perfect example of such reckless behaviour was another Irish journalist who today said Johnny Giles had died with a qualifying “?” at the end of her tweet. If you’re not confident enough to stand over something 100%, like any normal story, then why is it ok to tweet it?

BrianGreene

RTE Nuacht had it at 3.30pm (so I read on twitter)
we are the people - this is the herd - there are no rules here - contemplating how we are supposed to act in these circumstances is useless. yes we adjust to the news at such speed - we do it faster than the establishment or the law. I learned of the death of rory gallagher in 1995 by email, by the time I heard broadcaster Vincent Hannah had died (via email) in 1997 it was less shocking and more trusted.

Establishment media Radio TV Papers will reduce their lag time until they get to play the CNN game of first to break and last to confirm (Michael Jackson death) so they can hold the mobile audience the longest, but that is a losing game, we are mobile (and not just in the handset way) so we are free to talk, chatter, twitter, gossip and break real news with and without old establishment media as a prop of officialdom.

Gerry Ryan RIP.

Cgarvey

I think it helps to separate the activity from the medium. Twitter is just a medium to help/enhance how people communicate. What they communicate would still be communicated (be it by phone, SMS, email, etc.) in Twitter's absence. So Twitter is not at fault here.

I'd hate to have found out my father had died suddenly, and completely out of the blue, decades before expected, on Twitter! As a generalisation, I think people are more sensitive when it comes to traditional media. We wouldn't CC someone on an email about their father's death. We wouldn't SMS them asking them if it was true. I think some people on Twitter gave up that sensitivity (or just didn't consider the implications). It's a broadcast medium, not (generally) a personal one.

Maybe people do feel the right to news about the death of a celeb before, or at the same time as those closely related to the celeb? I certainly don't, but it might be much more a subjective thing than I think.

Anyway, it's not about what's OK on Twitter, it's about what's OK for us to broadcast, and when it is OK to do so. Who decides when news of the death is OK? I think that's where the "official" sources come in. If Twitter wasn't a broadcast medium (generally), there would probably be less of a debate. I don't know if there's a right answer, but we probably swayed slightly to insensitive side today.

Most importantly, my sympathies to Gerry's family (who've already been through a very tough couple of years), and to his friends and colleagues.

Adrian Weckler

Mark,

You're right. I wasn't 100% sure. I was about 85% sure. This is why I said that it was "unconfirmed" and didn't come right out say that he had died.

So I suppose it was still a "rumour". One that was backed up by enough credible people to talk about it openly -- without stating it as fact.

I believed it to be true. It was.

I can respect your position on this. But surely you can see some alternative to the black-and-white perspective you're presenting? Are your reporting criteria as rigid as you are making out?

Anyway, having missed the story, I'm sure you'll provide plenty of 'analysis' -- on Sunday.

Adrian Weckler

Sorry Mark, meant to also add:

It's a tricky game trying to claim the high moral ground over another reporter. Presumably the reason that you are making these points is out of respect for possible hurt to the family? (ie had the story been wrong, it would have caused undue hurt.)
That would be an arguable point. Were it not for the fact that your paper will, presumably, train its lenses on the grieving family of Gerry Ryan, whenever it gets a chance. (Or, if not the ST, certainly the NOTW or The Sun, your sister papers.)

I'm not saying I don't understand the need to do that to sell papers, mind.

Mark Tighe

Adrian,

Not making the point to claim any ground or out of respect for the family. I'm just surprised that two Irish journalists working for national papers today tweeted rumours about well known people having died before confirming it. One was right and the other thankfully wasn't.

It isn't black or white but on something so sensitive like this I think a journalist should be 100% before putting it out there.

I think Warren Swords, from the Mail, was first to put it on Twitter as a fact and fair play to him as he must have had it confirmed.

Adrian Weckler

Mark,

Not sure which other journalist you're talking about. Or what it's got to do with me. I heard something, checked it, and tweeted about it. It was correct.

I understand what you're saying -- I should have waited until more authoritative confirmation.
I'd say we have a difference of opinion on this and the "100% certain" aspect.

But again, you say: "on something so sensitive like this". In other words, sensitive for the family. Yet your paper will engage in massive analysis about Ryan on Sunday, without any heed whatsoever to the wishes of the family. Isn't that right?

Where, then, do the boundaries of sensitivity to the family start and finish?

You're making the rules: it's insensitive to tweet before family know, it's okay to do a four-page (or whatever) spread on it, including some comment that the family might not appreciate.

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Well written and some valid points. But my disappointment comes purely and simply from the fact that his next of kin were not fully informed before it went public (be that via conventional media or twitter) nor were the wishes of his family respected in keeping it quiet until all were informed.

Very simple. Surely his family (or anyone else in the public domain who pass away in the future) deserve that and what medium is used is irrelevent. You would just hope that people/journalists/bloggers etc had the decency to say nothing until it was 100% confirmed by the organisation/family in question, in this case the Ryan family. What is genuinely to be gained?

I always think of a "what if" situation at times like this - what if it was my dad and I read about it on twitter first or heard it on the radio? And I think that if members of the media or bloggers or whomever thought like this, there would be a bit more decency.

Twitter is not the problem. But it's use today by "those in the know" left a lot to be desired.

dervla

Interesting post and debate. I saw your tweet when it was published. It doesn't matter what the form of media - its not right to publish rumours. Is there not a journalistic ethic that you should be 100% sure of a fact before publishing? I agree with Marcus comments. If it was someone close to me, I wouldn't fancy hearing the news via rumour mill.

Bernie Goldbach

I don't think you can ask RTE to change its official broadcast confirmation policy until the broadcaster has run its time-worn protocols of ensuring next-of-kin has been notified.

Mike

Hi Adrian,
I witnessed the twitter spat between yourself Frank F and Matt C yesterday, on the death of Gerry R.
If I'm correct, that was the genesis for this article. Your were quite within your rights to report
the death, once you had valid sources. You are a bona fide journalist.
Your mistake was how you began you tweets:
"Gerry Ryan...? What?" followed by "Rumour mill about Gerry Ryan..." etc.
If your had just stated the facts, said you had reliable sources , then that would have been that.
Mind you, I think both Frank F and Matt C were out of line too, and more that a little bit condescending and patronizing. The two lads obviously think very highly of themselves, and see themselves as part of the new editorial classes, the successors to 'Madam' etc. On this particular topic, of reporting the death of a prominent person, holding onto a story etc, they also appear to have short memories and selective amnesia, with regards to their own past behavior and journalistic standards. - Just my opinion.

Michael

You are a tech journalist, why did you tweet unconfirmed reports about a celebrity’s death on your public access twitter account? Your name is up in lights - well done. As a long time reader of SBP I would have thought its journalists would have had more integrity.

With all due respect to you and the tech journalist's fraternity, perhaps you need a personal twitter account, a work account, and maybe add a death notices section to the SBP – then you will can become an even bigger asset to the paper.

Ann Donnelly

Ok, so Adrian is a tech journalist, but also is a person who is interested in current affairs and other things that those of us who follow him on Twitter are interested in. Many of us mix personal observations with our professional posts on Twitter and other social media channels -- this is what makes Twitter more than just a single dimensional sounding board.

Michael

I am familiar with Twitter and its nuances. I'd like to hear Adrian's perspective on my comments above. I find it ironic he has now gone quiet on the matter.

Adrian Weckler

Michael,

I tweeted it because I believed it to be true. I've written about this above.

If you don't approve, don't follow me.

Enjoy the long weekend.

Joanne

Not true - RTE 2FM Nuacht confirmed Gerry's death on their 3.30pm bulletin. Joe Duffy said several times yesterday that he wasn't informed until he came off air at 3pm.

As far as I can piece it together, the rumours started after a paramedic who attended the scene texted his relative to say "OMG GERRY RYAN IS DEAD!!!1". That person then posted on boards.ie (they possibly tweeted it as well but I don't know for sure). Then the twitter rumours snowballed.

Miriam O'Callaghan was called by RTE management who asked her to remove her tweet confirming his death - she herself had not had it confirmed officially. In today's Sunday Times she said she was at a legal meeting and some of the people there "knew Gerry and had heard what had happened".

I think RTE actually acted ethically and sensitively on Friday - unlike Newstalk, who broke the story before Gardai had confirmed Gerry was in fact dead. I imagine Newstalk will be in trouble (yet again) with the BCI over that.

IMO the attending paramedic who started texting (iirc it was his niece/nephew he texted - I imagine he must have sent a swathe of texts as most people wouldn't immediately go straight to their niece/nephew alone with this sort of news) should be disciplined over this. I don't think he should lose his job but he should be hauled over the coals.

The Sunday Times said Gerry's young son had to be hurriedly removed from school once it was noticed that the rumour was all over the net. Imagine how that boy would have felt if the first he knew about his father's death was his classmates perhaps teasing him about it, rather than hearing it from his own mother?

Michael

Adrian,

I don't follow you, I am not on twitter. I have not converted yet.

I only heard of you and got to your site by following Miriam O'Callaghan's tweet and other's tweets on the web. Such tweets are available for all on the web. Signing up to twitter is not manditory to have access to them.

I suppose what I am wondering now is in what capacity do you think you tweeted about Gerry Ryan? - on a professional or personal level, some other level, or do you think there is no differentiation anymore in the age we are in?

Emmet Ryan

I've got to take the same stance here as Marcus on this one and say I think it would have been better if more people had taken a step back and waited for official confirmation out of respect for the family.

The big issue to me is Miriam O'Callaghan's tweet. While we are talking a matter of mere minutes, the snowball didn't truly take place until she posted something.

While I have a lot of respect for Adrian as a source that's largely because I actually know you personally and I wouldn't consider a tweet by you on this particular topic to weigh as heavily in influencing the public and media response as that of someone with both O'Callaghan's stature in the media and her also being an employee of the same organisation as Gerry Ryan, RTE.

While she is not the official voice of Montrose, hers was the first word anyone heard from an RTE source confirming the rumour and that essentially allowed any mainstream outlets that were holding back whatever leeway needed to press ahead and report it.

I don't mean to attack Miriam O'Callaghan with that statement, far from it. I think it's more that she, like a lot of people with influence, need to get better advice to think before they tweet. She deleted later on but it was already out of the bag at this stage. This incident should be looked on from an educational perspective for other potentially influential tweeters (I'm especially thinking of media types who are fairly new to the medium).

Shane

Miriam O'Callaghan has defended her tweet.

See comment number 29 at http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/ontherecord/2010/05/04/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet/

Emmet Ryan

I would hardly call that a defence, instead she's clearly and in no uncertain terms admitted it was a mistake on her part. It's good of her to come forward and acknowledge that and to explain the circumstances as well.

The Evening Hérault

It's Twitter, not the New York Bloomin' Times. Twitter happens to have news but it's not (simply) a publisher or broadcaster. It has people chatting away in less guarded terms than in front of a microphone or on a news site. It has flippant remarks, bits of gossip that follow no journalistic guidelines, because that's the nature of it. You are in Twitter.

Substitute "the pub" for "Twitter" in the above and wonder what the fuss is about.

Theo

I have read Miriam O'Callaghan's explanation. I, for one, suspect its a ficticious version of events. Am I alone? Theo S

Air Jordans

Random efforts that lack method.

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