Tweeting headlines for breaking news

Getting breaking news out quickly but also accurately has long been a key challenge for news journalism. Given the volume of news items that some news organisations publish on their Twitter feeds, and the time pressures involved — particularly for breaking news — it is perhaps surprising that more mistakes don’t occur.

This is one error that highlights what can go wrong — and also raises an issue about auto-tweeting published headlines. It came at the end of the trial (for fraud) of the former personal assistants of Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi. The Grillo sisters were found not guilty on 20 December 2013 — as the main Associated Press (AP) Twitter account accurately noted in its initial ‘BREAKING’ tweet.

Following up around 14 minutes later with a further tweet that linked to an AP story, however, it inadvertently cast Lawson and Saatchi as those cleared of fraud — in a case in which they had appeared only as witnesses (and they had not faced any charges):

The situation was particularly confusing because the story to which that inaccurate tweet linked was correct  — as the Twitter card preview showed (below). So although the wording from that headline would have made for a less effective tweet than the first ‘BREAKING’ tweet, it would have been accurate.

The mistake was corrected about 20 minutes later:

In general, news tweets work best when written specifically for the medium rather than simply replicating headlines written for a website story, say. But this is a counter-example in which tweeting the headline from the web version (as some accounts are set up to do automatically) would have ensured it was at least accurate.

Refining Twitter: how to filter out (or search for) tweets by specific keywords — using Tweetdeck

Using Tweetdeck, you can hide tweets if they contain words you specify — and, conversely, set up filters like a search, to show only tweets showing specific keywords. There are two main ways of doing this and, on the day of the iPad2 goes on sale in the UK, I’m using ‘iPad’ as the keyword to filter out or (Apple fans, please note) search for.

Filter out anything you don’t want to see from Twitter

One way is to set a filter to affect everything in Tweetdeck; this applies to all columns and accounts. In the settings, look for the Global Filter menu — and type in the relevant word(s). You can also filter out tweets by people and source. Farewell those unwanted updates from Foursquare or Paper.li, perhaps.

To filter out tweets from all columns/accounts, use the Global Filter

To filter out tweets from all columns/accounts, use the Global Filter

The other, more selective way is to apply a filter to a chosen column — which you can also use as a ‘positive’ filter to show only tweets as specified.

Filter columns for specific words in Twitter

Look for the row of icons at the foot of the column you wish to filter or search, and click on the filter icon (an arrow curving down to a line). Using the default settings that then appear, you can type in a word or other text to exclude. To remove a filter, click the ‘x’ to the right.

Use the column filter to hide tweets

Use the filter to hide tweets containing specific words

Use column filters to find relevant tweets

Finally, the small drop-down menus in a column filter also allow you to search for tweets containing specific words or other text — simply change the minus sign to a plus. This ‘positive filter’ can be a useful shortcut, eg to hunt down a tweet you glimpsed and need to find again, or quickly to show particular tweets or only those with links (filter for ‘http’).

Use a column filter to show only specific tweets

Use a column filter to show only specific tweets

You can also filter by name, source or time of tweets instead of text. The column filter provides additional flexibility when used with a search column, eg to remove (old-style) retweets from a search on a particular hashtag (filter out ‘RT @’).