BBC Breaks News By Breaking Twitter

The BBC broke news this week when they said reporters are not allowed to break news via Twitter.

More than 2 years after the CBC declared an ‘online first’ mandate for their newsroom and after many other are flocking to the social networks to promote their stories, newscasts, and provide real-time updates to stories as they happen, the BBC is turning back the clock – sort of.

“When they have some breaking news, an exclusive or any kind of urgent update on a story, they must get written copy into our newsroom system as quickly as possible, so that it can be seen and shared by everyone – both the news desks which deploy our staff and resources (like TV trucks) as well as television, radio and online production teams.”

Really what the Beeb is trying to do is close the barn door before all the horses get out. In an era of daily death hoaxes and false leads, Twitter can quickly become a game of broken telephone.

The BBC is trying to bring a moment of sober second thought to the breaking news method. By alerting the news desk of a hot story, all channels can be on the same page and facts can be verified by the entire team. News can still be broken quickly, but it will be done – hopefully – without killing a man before he’s dead.

Last August, ESPN implemented a similar guideline preventing reporters from breaking news on Twitter. They also urged their reporters to think before they tweet or re-tweet.

Many called out that decision as a feeble attempt by the network to strangle new media with the traditions of the old.

Other news outlets are responding to the shifting technical tides of journalism as well. The UK’s Sky News and the Associated Press have each updated the rules of retweeting.

Sky News is banning journos from retweeting saying that when you retweet, you endorse the content of the tweet as factual. Without an editor to verify the information, Sky believes that accurate reporting is at risk.

So, to reiterate, don’t tweet when it is not a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work.

Where a story has been Tweeted by a Sky News journalist who is assigned to the story it is fine, desirable in fact, that it is retweeted by other Sky News staff.

Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter. Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process”.
[The Drum]

The Associated Press is warning journalists against ‘naked retweets‘ saying that context must be added before blankly passing along the words of another.


While the traditional media is grappling with the new way of doing things and trying to rationalize old school ethics with new school breaking news, Twitter has tossed up an entire section on how newsrooms and journalists can use Twitter. There are best practices, strategies for search, tools, branding, display guidelines, tips for effective tweeting, and many more sections.

Twitter is doing it right, building a bridge between new and old:

We want to make our tools easier to use so you can focus on your job: finding sources, verifying facts, publishing stories, promoting your work and yourself—and doing all of it faster and faster all the time.

We know you come from different generations. Some are native to the pilcrow, others to the hashtag. You began your careers in different media: radio, print, broadcast, online and mobile. But you share a common bond: the desire to make a difference in the world, bringing reliable information to the communities you serve.

The question is: Will old media cross that bridge and listen to the natives who will guide them through the new media wilderness?



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