Social media tools are useful in getting out the word of a tragic event, but trained journalists are still needed to tell the complete story.
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That's because in a crisis, an untrained person can unknowingly report rumor or speculation as fact. Others may purposely plant misinformation to see how far it spreads. Even with the demand for instant information, a journalist must confirm information before posting it on social media, in the same way it has to be verified before its printed or put on the air.
News media managers should make sure their breaking news plan contains guidelines about using social media. Reporters can't simply use Twitter or Facebook to gossip or vent their frustrations, especially when a company's logo is attached.
In a tragedy like the Connecticut school shootings, sensitivity is also important. Check out what ESPN told its staff about how to reference the shootings and what to avoid saying on social media.
People in news media respond to unspeakably bad news with the same emotions as anyone else. But like police officers and other first responders, we have the responsibility to do our jobs by sticking to the same standards and ethics as we would any other day.