The arrest of a 17-year-old boy amid allegations that he posted abusive messages about Olympic diving competitor Tom Daley demonstrates – yet again – the power of the written word wherever it may appear.
In this digitalized, social media-powered age it’s easy to put up comments and air our opinions at the click of a button.
This is, by and large (in my opinion a good thing). Because of this it’s also easy to galvanize the power of the masses, look at the clean up after the London riots last year – all done via a hashtag on Twitter, or the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, empowered and made possible by the use of social media; Facebook and micro blogging sites like Twitter.
But this power needs to be used responsibly, otherwise the powers that be, may decide – in their always infinite wisdom – may decide to take on that responsibility for us.
The guy who posted the abusive comments on Twitter – and I have to be careful what I write here – obviously wasn’t perhaps so aware of the power of what he had written. The post he did write that caused most of the uproar appeared to be an ill-informed one; i.e. he wrote something without the full facts (namely that Daley’s dad passed away of cancer). Maybe he wouldn’t have written it if he’d know this? We can’t say.
The thing is, most journalist (more so those that work as investigative/news reporters) will have had years of training and continuing professional development to make sure that every word they write is either based on fact or well-considered opinion.
It’s no defence to copy what another journalist has printed either; unless you have the full facts in shorthand notes or documentation, or in some cases video/tape evidence, you shouldn’t be writing it.
As an internet powered journalist (one of the first I might add) I had to do the same belt and braces whenever I clicked that ‘publish’ button on the site. I’ve worked for some pretty big news websites in my time.
Twitter users need to remember that the same rules go for the internet as for print, and everyone who posts anything on Twitter should probably be aware that their comments can be viewed by milllions of people.
It’s not just the trolls who but sites that share news stories, basically cut and pasting other sites stories and passing them off as their own with a bit of re-write. They need to watch out too. Because if one of those stories is libellous, then you’ll get sued too.
Original, factual well researched writing never goes out of style, otherwise we’ll all end up as twits.