NY Times editor: Tweet but verify

1-DSC01212Twitter has become a vital tool for many journalists, especially those who cover government, the New York Times first social media editor told an audience Tuesday at Flagler College in St. Augustine.
“Official sources on Twitter have just exploded in the past two years,” said Jennifer Preston, who was in town as part of the college’s Forum on Government and Public Policy series.
Preston advises journalists to follow both the official and personal Twitter stream of their key sources.
She said while Times reporters were waiting for news about the first U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria, the news surfaced in the Twitter stream of Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
More and more organizations, agencies and government leaders – from police and fire departments to the president of the United States – are breaking news on Twitter, said Preston, who was the paper’s social media editor from 2009 to 2011.
Preston said not all information on Twitter is true, however. She said actor Adam Sandler has been the subject of numerous bogus reports that wind up on Twitter. (See Adam Sandler dies in snowboard accident).
Information that appears on the Twitter accounts of unknown or unverified sources should be regarded as “a tip, not a fact,” said Preston, now a reporter and editor at the Times.
She cited the New York Post’s much-criticized coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. That newspaper’s Twitter stream displayed a photo claiming to show two people wanted in the bombing. A Post headline stated: “Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon.” But the two people were innocent, something the Post reporters could have figured out if they had done a more thorough job reporting the story.
1-DSC01213Asked how student journalists should handle their own social media accounts, Preston recommended that they make their Facebook pages private. As she put it, “Wall it in.”
Facebook is a great place to exchange information among friends and family, she said, but there’s no need for prospective employers to see that.
Student journalists should use their Twitter accounts to follow sources, build a following and develop a Twitter stream “showing that they have excellent judgement,” Preston said.
She also recommended that students open LinkedIn accounts. That is must, she said.
Starting Oct. 20, Preston joins the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as vice president for journalism. The foundation’s president, Alberto Ibargüen, said in a statement:

Jennifer is the ideal person to help newsrooms embrace innovation because she believes in the change and has helped make it happen. She’ll lead Knight’s efforts to help newspaper, TV, radio and Internet newsrooms bring media innovation into their mainstream.
Jennifer is a collaborative, natural-born teacher who will help journalism schools train a new generation of digital natives to report the news. In the process, they will help evolve the skills necessary to report the news and engage the public. We’re still in a time of creative disruption but Jennifer is unflappable.

Purple balloons for Michelle

Friends and relatives of Michelle O’Connell gathered at her graveside Monday in St. Augustine on what would have been her 29th birthday. They released purple balloons into the sky – a message of love that they hoped would reach O’Connell in heaven.
They also celebrated O’Connell’s life. They remembered that she loved going to beach. They said she enjoyed simple pleasures, like the smell of sunflowers. She adored her daughter, Alexis.
She was a “fun-loving person,” said Ciara Morris, who was O’Connell’s best friend.
O’Connell died of a gunshot wound to the head in 2010. Her friends don’t believe it was a suicide and point to O’Connell’s former boyfriend, Jeremy Banks.
Banks, a St. Johns County sheriff’s deputy, has denied shooting O’Connell. His boss, Sheriff David Shoar, supports Banks and cites three separate medical examiner’s reports ruling the death a suicide.
O’Connell’s relatives say the sheriff’s office botched the initial investigation.
Shoar has denied that and has posted more than two dozen documents and reports about the case on the sheriff’s website so that people can read the material and come to their own conclusions.
“This is a tragic case with many complexities,” Shoar wrote on the website.
O’Connell’s friends and relatives aren’t giving up and say they’ll continue pushing for justice. They say they are encouraged by the latest development: Gov. Rick Scott has ordered that a new prosecutor, Jeffrey Ashton, examine the case.
On Oct. 3, the New York Times reported:

…Governor Scott cited the emergence of a new “potential witness.” The witness was not named. But Ms. O’Connell’s family believes that the reference is to the former owner of a St. Augustine bar, Danny Harmon, who has filed a sworn affidavit saying that the night after Ms. O’Connell died, he served drinks to Mr. Banks.
In the statement, obtained by The Times, Mr. Harmon said he heard Mr. Banks say, “That bitch got what she deserved,” and “I am not going to let her ruin my life.”

Morris said she hopes that the state’s new investigation finally gives the family what they’ve been seeking for four long years: Justice.

Kim Kardashian and the Selfie Era

Here I'm in Havana adjusting the microphone before interviewing a rapper known as "Gladiator of Cuba."

Here I’m in Havana adjusting a microphone before interviewing a rapper known as “Gladiator of Cuba.”

Self-promotion and branding are big these days. I sometimes forget about that. I spent weeks in Cuba this summer and didn’t take a single selfie.
I was in Ecuador and didn’t take any selfies there, either, although I grabbed a GoPro and caught some footage of me riding in a canoe.

My GoPro captured this footage.

My GoPro captured this footage.

As a journalist, I keep the focus on the subjects of my stories. I try to keep my opinion out of it. After all, it’s not about me.
Times have changed, I know. We’re in the Selfie Era.
And one of the queens of selfies is Kim Kardashian. Her book, called Selfish, is due out in April. It will feature her selfies – “many never-before-seen personal images from one of the most recognizable and iconic celebrities in the world.”
The book promo states:

Widely regarded as a trailblazer of the “selfie movement” — a modern-day self-portrait of the digital age — Kim has mastered the art of taking flattering and highly personal photos of oneself.

Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, isn’t convinced that Kardashian is the best role model for American youth. She wrote:

Kim K, like Paris Hilton, is just about as thin as their photographs. They want our love and money and they hope to achieve it by showing how much love and money they have already.
So wouldn’t it be great if Kim K’s selfie book sat moldering in book stores and on Amazon? That would reassure me about the soul of modern girls and young women. I wouldn’t blame anyone for paging through it. It’s a little like a car wreck — awful, but hard to totally avoid looking at. But buying the book is another thing altogether.
Instead of sending Kim K to the bank, let’s encourage her to go to a really good therapist. This kind of narcissism needs to be treated, not celebrated.

I don’t think Kardashian will be checking in for treatment anytime soon. She has managed to build an empire around her name. Endless self-promotion to fans – including more than 23 million followers on Twitter – is key to her success.