Twitter has claimed a number of high profile scalps since it burst onto the internet in 2006. Politicians, actors, actresses, pop stars, athletes and journalists have all felt the humiliation of accidentally tweeting an offensive message or photo they would prefer the world didn’t see.
Popular American sports columnist, Bill Simmons, knows the dangers of Twitter all too well. In his insightful and at times amusing story, ‘The case of the accidental tweeter’ published in 2010 on ESPN.com, Simmons recalls the day he inadvertently broke the news that New England Patriots linebacker, Randy Moss, was being traded to the Minnesota Vikings. While Simmons’ accidental tweet wasn’t risqué or offensive, it was however in direct violation of ESPN’s standard journalism practice and therefore raised a number of ethical questions.
The article delves into issues surrounding the media’s obsession with breaking news, which according to Simmons is only ‘exacerbated’ by twitter. Simmons argues that there is a difference between ‘reporting and postulating’, a distinction that is constantly being blurred thanks to the culture of immediacy created by the 24 hour news cycle and the Internet.
Despite the dangers, many journalists have embraced Twitter, using it to break stories and develop media identities; however, those in the public eye must be cautious, because as Simmons reminds us, ‘the Internet can be a cruel beast’.
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