Guidance: How To Handle Tweet Mistakes

Editor’s note on July 27, 2017: Click here to go to an updated special section about the do’s and don’t's of social media.  

When a tweet containing verifiably incorrect information (beyond a minor typo or something easily corrected in a follow-up tweet or reply) goes out from an NPR account, here’s what to do:

1. Take a screenshot of the offending tweet, preferably on Twitter.com with you logged in as NPR (or your specific branded account). Save that screenshot for archiving.

2. In Notepad or a similar tool, draft a correction. The format should follow the style we use at NPR.org/corrections. That is, we state what the error was and then give the corrected information. For example: “We’ve deleted a tweet that [insert description of mistake]. In fact [insert correct information].” If you can fit in a link to a page where the correct information is more fully stated, do so.

3. Ideally, show the draft to someone. We all need an editor and we don’t want a typo or an error to slip into a correction. For relatively simple, low-profile fixes a colleague is fine. For more serious corrections (trust your gut on this), talk with the DME in charge that day, your supervisor, the Standards & Practices editor or one of the copy editors. The members of the Social Media team are invaluable resources as well.

4. Then, delete the offending tweet. Again, be sure you have your corrected tweet and screenshot ready to go before deletion.

5. Once the tweet has been deleted, create a fresh tweet with your correction language. Add a link if you have one and attach the screenshot you created of the problematic tweet.

6. If a DME or the Standards & Practices editor isn’t already in the loop, send them a note recapping what’s been done.

Here’s what is going on:

We’re aiming to be transparent, but we also don’t want a tweet with a serious mistake to keep circulating. By making a screenshot and attaching it to the follow-up tweet with the right information, we are acknowledging the error without hiding it.

What sorts of mistakes warrant this type of treatment? We’re going to have to apply judgment. Sometimes, it will be obvious. But in many cases a “reply” to the tweet might suffice. Again, talk with an editor, a DME, the Standards & Practices editor or the Social Media team.

Thanks from:

Wright Bryan, Sara Goo, Lori Todd, Mark Memmott & Steve Mullis

(“Memmos;” June 15, 2017)

June 15, 2017

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