Twitter users “kill” celebrities off all the time, from Justin Beiber to the more recent Morgan Freeman, but those are just people messing around. What happens when it is a news powerhouse that generates the false information first?
On September 9, 2011, CBS learned just how fast word really travels on Twitter, when followers of @WhatsTrending were wrongly informed that Steve Jobs had died. The followers did not hesitate to share their disappointment in the news provider for their inaccuracies and lack of professionalism.
The results of the mess up – for which both hackers and an intern had received blame for – were the removal of the tweet, the firing of What’s Trending host Shira Lazar, the removal of the program and all related content from CBS, and immediate apology tweets from the news sources and the former host. CBS also released a statement acknowledging What’s Trending as an unattached, outside news source who operated on their own.
In a bad situation, CBS responded in a most timely and professional manner, and should be looked to as an example for how to react to a blunder. Remove, Apologize, and React.Though they handled the mistake properly, the whole thing could have been avoided had @WhatsTrending simply sat on the story until a death had been confirmed through evidence.
In a society that is constantly updating its status globally, it is important for news organizations to be the first to release a story, since they now “compete” with millions of citizen journalists. While understanding this unfortuate position, due to their accountability as professionals, accuracy is better than speed.
A month later, CBS was among one of the first to report on the official passing of Steve Jobs, and today remains a top news source.