Would you retweet or embed an unverified Twitter picture?

This is what I woke up to in front of my house this morning.   on Twitpic

Violet Skyye tweeted this image of a fire truck stuck in a sinkhole in front of her house last week. But you can’t believe everything you see on Twitter, but that didn’t stop me from compiling and blogging all 15 of her photos in my “just for fun” side project. Without verification of the incident, I might not have even retweeted that great photo.

Skyye’s tweet passes six of eight methods Craig Kanalley suggests to verify a tweet, but searching for the name “Violet Skyye” didn’t return any solid results and my attempt to reach out to Skyye via Twitter yielded no results.

Thankfully, the L.A. Times did some reporting and blogged about the incident. Through one blog post, I found that the two occupants of the truck were not injured and that the incident took place in Valley Village sometime before 5:30 on Tuesday, 2½ miles away from another water main failure.

The basic information you expect in an article can’t be found in Skyye’s stream of tweets, and that is absolutely fine. I am very thankful that she documented the event, but she is not paid to answer the questions that reporters are paid to answer on a daily basis. That is where journalists can add value, as the Times demonstrated with one blog post.

Still, I am about 99.9% sure Skyye’s pictures are legitimate. If you are a journalist, would you have retweeted that first picture? Would you have added it to a story or blog post before your photographer arrived at the scene?

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2 thoughts on “Would you retweet or embed an unverified Twitter picture?

  1. A couple of years ago I discussed a citizen based news service with Cliff Gelb from GMA. He was looking at ways to expand upon a fleet of independent news trucks(professionals). I expressed the view that citizen news would be the future and ultimately be mobile phone based however it would lack real value without identity and authentication.
    The authenticity advantage may be the only one that ‘professional’ journalists with reputations or attached to the reputation of an existing publication have over citizens. Citizens are of course everywhere.
    Once you have identity you have accountability and even accounting ie the ‘reporter’ could get paid for their efforts. I felt that community ‘local’ news was where the power was, but that stories of (inter)national interest would emerge.
    Twitter, citizens powered news and in fact all social networking and web interactions will only be truly empowered when we have those two essentials in place – authenticity through authentication and accountability (and perhaps some accounting because it might take more than 15 seconds of fame to keep the better reporters reporting.)

    I seem to have been right. Strangely enough a web based news service may benefit perhaps once or twice from the publicity after a false report, but established news outlets probably don’t benefit on a breach of credibility.

    Credibility is essential and without authentication there’s a big risk and the rewards are potentially nil.

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