Validating a Source’s Tip


image The above screengrab from a Twitter account of a journalist has caused me to write this post. The tweet started the rumor that President Benigno Aquino collapsed hours before this tweet was posted and became the basis of subsequent news stories about the health of the president.

Hence the post is a “news” tweet from a journalist, it was taken seriously by other colleagues in the media and the general public. Is there anything wrong with the content of the tweet? Is it fair and balance? Yes, it has taken the side of Malacanang through Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Edwin Lacierda. But is it appropriate?

From my point-of-view as a former mass communication instructor and a journalist, the “news” tweet lacks prudence and further investigation. It was posted in haste to go ahead of competition or it was just a mere desire to share the information without validation. Getting the side of the affected party to balance the delivery of the news is not validation. A journalist has to investigate in order for his facts to be valid. When a second source tells you the information is not true, then go back to the first source who broke the “news” to you and re-validate. If the first source can prove the information he relayed to you is true, then ask again the second source for rebuttal. Go back to the affected party to explain their side–whether the incident will be totally denied or get an explanation of the alleged incident.

This “news” tweet may had been a product of manipulation of the media to create a scenario aimed at stirring public opinion. In my media ethics class before, i had emphasized on “sourcing” the need to: 1.) Ascertain the truth of the source’s assertion; and 2.) Determine if the source is not polluted and beneficial to the information. If you validly determined the correctness of the information and there is proof to it, then proceed to Step 2. If the source falls under the description stated in Step 2, care in handling the story is required in order for the journalist not to be dragged into the motives of the source. If in the first place you have proven the information is not true, a journalist may stop right there and NEVER publish the wrong information. Otherwise, the journalist has fallen to the bait of the interested party in spreading rumor.

The aforementioned tweet have stirred a rumor and unnecessarily drew attention from the public and the officials concerned whether the post was in good faith or not.

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