Social Networking Sites Help Spread a Rumor

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Rumors have always been the poison of journalism. And Twitter can inject that poison directly into a community's fear.

We saw that play out this week as people on Twitter and Facebook started passing along along unconfirmed information via social media that spread like wildfire.

If you followed KOMU's online coverage of the University Hospital lockdown this week, you would have learned that the lockdown was a precautionary measure in response to a violent person who might try to gain access to the hospital.

But if you got your information from non-newsroom sources on Twitter and Facebook, you would have thought there was a gunman shooting on the MU campus.

"First thing I heard was a friend of mine updated his Facebook status -- said something about 'Are the dorms on lockdown?' and I guess they were trying to figure out exactly what was going on. They had heard about it from a friend of theirs and then after that I went and checked the MU Alert website and that it was just the hospital," says MU Student Aaron Wagner.

So when it comes to consuming social media, how do you know the information you receive is correct?

Your best bet is to follow news outlets, like KOMU, that are trained to pass along confirmed information from credible sources.

"The Radio Television Digital News Association has guidelines for social media use by the media, and they're very specific about how we use Tweets and Facebook posts and other things to make sure that we verify those. And it's almost like a police scanner traffic, we wouldn't report what we hear on the scanner but we would use it as a point to start our reporting," says Stacey Woelfel, KOMU 8 News Director.